Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

poem- East Hastings August 30, 2013

Filed under: Poetry — Shawn L. Bird @ 6:32 pm
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From the bus window

we watched the people

sitting around the needle exchange

tarps arranged against rain

carts piled high

to match their owners’ mental states.

Someone’s sister, daughter, mother.

Someone’s brother, son, father

Too many someones

looking dark, dirty, and desperate.

They watched us on the bus

as we watched them

Each of us in our own cages

looking through our own bars.



Gordon Campbell.  This street didn’t look like this before your time.  You have a lot to answer for!

Here’s a good photo on this blog.



33 Responses to “poem- East Hastings”

  1. I was a Candy striper at a Catholic hospital during summertime mid 1970s the height of New York’s heroin epidemic. Mondays the methadone clinic opened for pregnant women. Even at the tender age of 14 I could not understand why NYC substituted one drug for another. I always wondered what happened to the children born of heroin/methadone mothers. Later I saw one of my cousins self-destruct from Crack. However as indicated in your poem we cannot judge. I fought a long hard battle against prescription drug addiction. The only difference between me and the addicts on the streets is that my pills were legal yet still as deadly if not more so. I’m blessed to be in Recovery but that was a crazy time in my life.

    • Methadone is at least not addictive. The needle exchange offers clean supplies, so addicts are (theoretically) less likely to come down with infectious diseases like hepatitus and AIDS. I support needle exchange, but the reality around the clinic made me see why some oppose the concept. The clientèle are not from a Disney movie.

  2. That is so vivid..I love it!…I’ve only been to Vancouver twice. On my first visit the regional director totally understood that I wanted to visit many areas and yes, Hastings Street…every area we visited I could remember a youth calling from places in the past 13 years.

    • It was very sad. They’re mostly there by choice, I know, though perhaps one could argue that addiction has stolen the option of choice. I suspect that anyone ready to get out could find the support systems to do it, but I also suspect it would require super-human effort to make those steps. They’re real people though, worthy of honour and respect.

      • Yep agreed, they ARE people! addiction is a disease not a choice.

      • Do you think someone can escape a life of addiction without making a choice to do so, though? It seems like a crazy paradox to me. Because addiction is so complex and so powerful, but if someone isn’t willing to fight it, how could they possibly escape it? So hard.

      • It is very humbling coming to a place to admit you have no control over you addiction but that it controls you. I think it is only there a person accepting the support can succeed but it is always a battle some days more than others…not just one day at a time, one hour at a time.

      • Or even one minute at a time, perhaps?

      • Yep and attending 12 step meetings can be a way to stay grounded…reminding a person how easy it is to slip back…never ever take their sobriety for granted.

  3. stuffeyefind Says:

    Its a hard life.

    • I can’t even imagine.

      • Escaping addiction is a choice. I can see how it would seem like a paradox. But making the decision to use a possibly addictive substance is a choice as well. Whether in our minds we acknowledge the choices we are making earlier on while we are making them or not…they are still choices we made. When a person makes the choice to beat something so hard…. it is more of a seen choice that maybe going in (and that all depends on the person. Some people do things to cover up the pain of something else knowing that they are hurting themselves-that’s from personal experience. Nothing as extreme as needles or crack. But something bad enough that you get physically ill for days without). This is a lovely poem. Noble and beautiful.

      • Indeed. Thank you.

  4. Geo Sans Says:

    east hastings
    closing riverview
    a river bursts
    our streets

  5. kiwiskan Says:

    pretty sad though

  6. macjam47 Says:

    A beautiful poem but so sad.

  7. Michelle Says:

    a great depiction of desperation. I love the references to “both of us in our cages”. To me its saying that neither set of people want to get too close to each other. Like being in a zoo. Each life on either side of the fence is too afraid to get close to the other life.

  8. amwthl Says:

    Reblogged this on Mild Revolution. Like, Really Mild. and commented:
    “each of us in our own cages” spoke to me quite a lot for many reasons

  9. I loved this one Shawn, even though I went into it not knowing what East Hastings was. You captured perfectly the hopelessness and tragedy of poverty.

    And yes, everyone deserves respect, and, when they need it (whether they ask for it or not), some help. It’s difficult to walk by a homeless person without feeling anything. But like most people who have lived in a big city I’m guessing, occasionally I’m guilty of walking right by somebody living on the street and not noticing them, and that’s when I probably need to pinch myself because I’m sleepwalking.

  10. Great real poem. I have many poems and short stories that take place on public transport and that explore what can be seen and experienced from that perspective. I think it is an excellent vehicle for storytelling, for exploring the street level realities and your poem does that very well.
    Also thank you for the the “Like” and the “Follow!”

  11. My first image was of my last trolley ride to the convention center for ComicCon 2013. The same homeless camp just before the downtown transition center had grown immensely. San Diego has about 16,000 homeless. When I was a delivery driver (20 yrs ago) I would occasionally buy food for someone on the streets, instead of giving money which only went to the nearest liquor store. I actually had one honest guy tell me he needed money for his heroine addiction. Not sure if I was wrong for doing so, but I gave him a buck… and never saw him again in my travels. Nice site, Shawn. Have a wonderful day!

  12. littlelaughingprincess Says:

    This is my favourite so far, very glad you liked a poem of mine so I could find yours. Thanks!

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