Two Halves/Different Stories (And Poems)

Thinking in 2015 of How the Other Half Lives, 1890

In Jacob Riis’ photographs of New York tenements,
sleeping children clump together in rumples of
face and cloth whose softness against
roughed blocks, barred alleys, shocks
the eye,
and people, even back in the Gilded Age,
were outraged.

But now we live in a Gelded Age,
where no one wants to man up,
woman up,
to face poor children,
to acknowledge
that they too
are all of ours.

And instead of flashing a light on the
shame of their tenemented and un-
tenemented lives (for so many are homeless)
we try simply
to dole out punishment.

Cut cut, halve halve,
wholly making sure that the have-nots

The above is a draft poem for my prompt on With Real Toads to write about the idea of half.  This arose from my  Jacob Riis’ landmark book called How The Other Half Lives, about poverty in New York around the turn of the century.  Riis’ pictures are truly remarkable though heart-rending and led to actual reforms in New York City and other places.  Sad to say, the U.S. has now one of the highest rates of child poverty in the developed world, and change seems only headed  in a negative direction.

The below is another draft poem I wrote for this prompt.  Sorry for the number of draft poems–the pressure of April puts me in ferment, and I’d rather just get some of the half-done work out rather than stew about it, especially given pace of oncoming prompts.   

Another Half of It  (Unbearable)

The egg cannot
just say no.

It cannot, no more than the woman,
push away its attackers; has no recourse to ‘shut down’
the porous.

The woman might convulse, weep,
at last still,
still the egg cannot repulse
what burrows into
its not-throat,
nor immolate against
forced flagellation.



 Apparently, women who bear children from rape have in many U.S. states no right to cut off parental/visitation rights of a rapist father.  Additionally, although most states allow abortion in the cases of rape, new restrictions on abortion make it increasingly difficult for women to get an abortion in these instances because of difficulties in proving the rape within the short time period allotted for abortion. 

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10 Comments on “Two Halves/Different Stories (And Poems)”

  1. Argh. Your writing is wonderful, the topic distressing, yet we need to think about it – In Canada too, far too many children live in poverty. And supports get cut and cut………..timely topic, Karin!

  2. ZQ Says:

    Well said… yes, what are we to do?

  3. There are limits on how many times a half can be halved.. and children living on the streets is shameful.. I wonder what pictures film or maybe video games that could make changes possible…

  4. Sanaa Rizvi Says:

    This is so sad..! The poem portrays the misery of the children in the picture quite well..! These lines are very powerful:

    Cut cut, halve halve,
    wholly making sure that the have-nots

    Loved the poem!

  5. hedgewitch Says:

    Two very powerful halves of a sad and discouraging whole which is our fragmented body politic, so cruel, so narrow, so cursed with the snow-blindness of tunnel vision. Really well done, each, in different styles, yet closely joined as two halves of a legume. The quality of your drafts as always blows me away, who maybe once in a hundred tries can write a few lines that stand without help from the retrospective editing pen. Thanks for speaking up so eloquently on these two ‘dirty secrets’ of our poor sick schizophrenic country.

  6. So So true. Love your ending. My husband, girls, and I were once on food stamps. There wasn’t any work in the rural community we lived in and unemployment could barely keep a roof over our heads. We were proud, but hunger made us desperate to even seek assistance.

  7. CC Champagne Says:

    Simply love both of these, but to be honest the second, draft one, hit home more…

  8. Snakypoet (Rosemary Nissen-Wade) Says:

    Excellent subjects! The drafts are already very effective; would love to see the finished poems.

  9. Jim Says:

    Two of the world’s terrible situations for the forgotten or want-to-forget-them people.
    The second, would the morning after pill be an answer? If I were a woman, it would be a part of it for me. That and better education.
    The first, let’s not forget those who sneak into the U.S. looking for an answer and finding that we do not care.

    • ManicDdaily Says:

      You are right–I would think the morning after pill would be an answer where available–thanks, Jim, for your thoughtful comment. k.

      On Mon, Apr 20, 2015 at 6:05 PM, ManicDDaily wrote:


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