Joshua Sutherland Allen

Joshua Sutherland Allen

Sunday, September 21, 2014


My home is not the two-story white house
With a basement, that faces the preschool across the street
And gives birth to tulip poplar blossoms in the spring;
The house where we kept two dogs, a hedgehog, a cat,
Where we lost a daughter, and where we buried the hedgehog.
My home is not the farm where I grew up,
Where my neighbor the whippoorwill
Was my companion on summer nights,
Nesting outside my bedroom window,
Keeping me awake with his song;
Where summer trips down the hill to the creek
Meant adventure and possibility
Like that known by Balboa, De Soto, or Drake.
My home is not the houses where my grandparents lived,
Where my parents grew up,
Where my siblings and I searched
Through boxes of junk in the attic,
Discovering treasures among the dusty, forgotten refuse –
Old mail carrier’s hats, a broken but useable typewriter,
Christmas decorations from Christmases past:
Simple treasures that knew how to spark a child’s imagination.

My home is the park in the center of town,
The one with the walking and biking trail
That borders the cemetery,
Where my grandmother is buried,
And her parents, and her sisters.
My home is the length of fast food restaurants,
Tax offices, banks, and law firms
That stretch for miles along the main business route in town.
My home is the Weed and Seed with its drugged out houses
And its water marks from spring-time floods.
My home is the trash heap beside the river
Where kids throw tires that have outlived their purpose as tires,
Strange rubber ornaments along the muddy bank
Where mosquitos breed.
My home is the high school with the leaky roof
Where the mice run through classrooms, kitchens, and counselors’ offices.
My home is the salvage yard on the south end
And the subdivision up north.

My people have been here for at least four generations –
Six generations on one side.
My people are teachers, postmen, city clerks.
But also my people
Are the people who inhabit the streets and the slums,
The mansions, the alleys,
The modest, middle-class homes on north Main,
The renters in one-room apartments,
Just getting started in life, or just putting pieces back together;
My people live in rescue missions,
In the projects of East Side,
And in the doctors’ homes on Pill Hill.
My family is the kid who thinks she doesn’t need school,
Thinks there’s nothing she needs to learn:
“I know how to take care of myself,” she says.
My family is the meth head on Main Street,
Teeth rotting, hair thinning, body wasting;
His dead, sunken eyes veiling a life that once was.
Even the mangy dog and the skinny cat
That lurk in the dumpsters behind the grocery stores,
Waiting for a meal they don't have the energy to go kill,
The strays and the sick ones:

These are my family.

This place is my people;
These people are my home.


  1. Sound like you live nearby :-)

  2. This is a terrific poem, Joshua. In fact, it gives me chills. You have shown painted 'my people' with a wide brush; and I sense from this poem that we all are connected in some way. If a person has this kind of life view, I think it will influence greatly how they lead their lives. Excellent writing! Bravo.

  3. Yes, this is a stellar poem, Joshua. I love your worldview, which encompasses everything, and includes everyone. I echo Mary: Bravo!

  4. Your writing is remarkable, Joshua. I enjoyed your sense of connectedness, as we are all connected. You've given so much to think about :)

  5. A well written poem. I love the message in those last two lines.