Board member Brandon Mercer wrote this poem after walking past a man whose entire home was a six-foot square of damp, cold concrete with bedding and belongs spread across the sidewalk. When Mercer walked past the same spot a few hours later, the scene had changed from a snapshot of a troubled life to something worse.  


The man’s sign pleaded “I’m sorry that I’m hungry”
A city feasting on organic micro greens and micro aggressions
Techies marching with the obligatory chalices of coffee
To the anthem of the city
Cars honking,
BART screeching,
Mentally ill yelling,
Behind glass
Behind bars
Where tech bros order 20-dollar martinis
and sisters suffer in squalor
A pane of glass separates them
A shame of the past denigrates him
Hipsters and homeless both with hands out —
One holds an empty cup, the other a thousand dollar phone also empty
Devoid of empathy
Emptied of thought and bereft of deed
Indeed we don’t do
what we know he needs
Based on what we see
Do we hurt when others hurt?
Do we care for the convert?
Didn’t we feel once?
Didn’t we kneel once?
Did you steal once?
Billionaires and blight
The binary Bay
A dichotomy of denizens
A schism of citizens
The haves and have nots
Should haves and would nots
Sunday morning, the faithful gather
at Planet Fitness
They worship at the altar of the elliptical
And then wait in line for brunch, they’re so woke
They only carry bespoke
purses and drink from Hydroflasks
While the Greatest Generation sits alone
in barren wooden pews
Both isolated
While down the block, a veteran without a home
Spent the night on cold concrete
Then awoke in the morning
To spend the day
dying alone

— Brandon M. Mercer, from a collection of poems about life in the Bay Area

This poem was shared at GRIP’s annual meeting along with a poem about the impact of GRIP’s work called “Soup.”