This is how I drew you

Boots at right angles.

Boots at right angles. Kaia Sand (StreetRoots)

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Do you ever wish there was a different way to get the news? Kaia Sand is a journalist whose day job is executive director of the community newspaper Street Roots in Portland, Oregon. She’s also a poet and she uses both lenses – journalism and poetry – to write about the people she knows and things she sees firsthand in her city. Charles Monroe-Kane caught up with her.

This is how I drew you

Kaia Sand  

Old Town, Portland, Ore

“Your smile makes me smile

Your laugh makes me laugh

Your joy gives me joy

Your hope gives me hope”

—Sinéad O’Connor (from “The Wolf is Getting Married”)


address expressed as cross streets and a tent 

arms outstretched in the mist 

an insistence on life

an archipelago of brightly colored tents 

cars rush by on either side

boots set at right angles

careful not to overstay

charged your phone from the fairy lights

crows crowd the bronzy dusk 

bolts and brakes and brackets and bearings

burnt to the ground again

cardboard to buffer the cold pavement

chihuahua clutching to your thighs  

daffodils festooning a blue-tarped tent

didn’t want to cause trouble

dirt and dust, grease and muck

daily resurrections

downed branches like brooms in the street

drew up the naloxone from a vial

dry space in a wet city

fentanyl smoke clinging like a globe

filed your taxes

garbage bag of belongings

geriatric medicine in middle age

grandmother’s ashes in your tent

green slip posted to your RV

groundscores of dropped jewelry

handed a swaddled cat named Ghost

hands cupped over a can of flames

‘have a good weekend’ you called from your tent

hazardous to just stop cold turkey

high-pitched grip of tires, the crash

housing voucher lost in the sweep

‘I hope you can understand and forgive me’

keep acting like it’s worth it until it is

a quilted nest of clothes

laughed and clapped your hands

left a drawing of a rose as an apology

lime-green lava lamp and a cracked brown belt

lost a half of a foot and a third of a leg to frostbite

the lungs take it all in

miracles meted out by the hour

music begins at dusk

next of kin so notified

palm trees sallow in the northern sun

plastic bottles leaking onto the pavement 

possessions lumped together, a mountain range

rain-slick quivering hands

recently evicted

red-gray forest-fire air

rock cairns where the tent once was

ruckus around the body about to be brought back to life

scratching your scaby-chewed skin

scrum of officers occluding your view

shared your apartment despite rules that forbid it

shots fired into this dusty city heart

‘show me you are alive by moving’

situation that could easily have gone wrong

six people sleep upright in a sedan 

stars, moon, neon

sugar in your coffee, a table on which to rest your head

swept on Monday and then again on Wednesday

suffocation in open air

taped a valentine to a brick wall

the tent was punctured in the move

the way we had been trained

‘this took a piece of our serenity’

thrusting both fists in the air when you came to

tidied the sidewalk with a brittle broom

too many sores for a prosthetic

towed at your expense

trapped in a wheelchair with failed wiring

warming the frozen hummingbird in your hands

wheelchairs welded into a cart

while those with housing sheltered in place

with a car to sleep in, you felt obliged to share

wobbly baby carriage wreathed in plastic dahlias

yelling that you are human, you have rights

yellow lab who lives on Third

you are trying, that’s the message to take home

you knew Crow could fix it

you might move your camp to the river until ‘it all blows over’

your mother died last year; you never got the message

your black eye healed to pearly amber

your mood, more optimistic

‘you wanted to be a cloud, so I turned you into a cloud’ by drawing you that way