City of Angels – A Poem

Introduction: This was written while listening to Phil Collins’ “Another Day in Paradise” for some added inspiration…

Scuffed love-lost souls
Sitting alone in a crowd
Staring with loud clarity
Observing the whole
World through heavy
Swollen layers of smoke
A knot rising in my throat
Of all that – I know not
Trying to steady my feet
My hands are trembling
My eyes are clouding
Wishing that I had more –
As I walk over to
Offer them my last dollar

Gretchen Leary 2013

This song reminds me of dusk in Los Angeles. Now, I lived in a bad part of L.A. I got up at 4:45AM and took three buses and walked probably the same number of miles a day. I made so little money that I didn’t even own a mattress, but I was so moved by the homeless population that I tried to find little things to do for them. It was so humbling when I couldn’t find a job at first and the suggestion I was given was to tear my clothes, rub some dirt on my face, and sit on the corner. I laughed until I realized they weren’t kidding. My first job interview – he mistook me for a prostitute (still not sure why) and my second was down an alley in Compton. I thank God that He was watching over me through those months in my nightmare memory of Los Angeles. In a weird way – it is the City of Angels – I had them with me everywhere I went. Whether it was at my bus stop at 5am or on the subway at night. Never again.

About Gretchen McIntire (formerly Leary)

I am 34 years old, I live in the Raleigh area, and I am writing from the perspective of an individual with Asperger's Syndrome.
This entry was posted in Music, Poetry and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to City of Angels – A Poem

  1. Debbie says:

    I loved the poem and your story along with it. So thankful He was watching over you too.

  2. brian miller says:

    smiles….thank goodness for the angels that do watch over us….scuffed love-lost souls…been that and known a few….i like the heart in the end…the compassion of giving that last dollar…smiles…swollen layers of smoke is fun to say too…smiles.

  3. gardenlilie says:

    Wow … a rough start. How old were you? I lived there for two months near the Johnny Carson studios, as a nurse, so we had a place. My impression of LA was that it was a melting pot of people from all over the world. I was a minority for the first time. This was pre-riots. Thanks for sharing that story through a poem. You write so endearing. It was you, correct?

  4. Sara v says:

    Hi Gretchen! I’m here at the excellent recommendation of Amy. Beautiful words! Scuffed love-lost souls–staring with loud clarity–that phrase really struck me, a perfect description of so many homeless expressions. So happy to meet you and your poems:-)

  5. Jim Creston says:

    Hi, Gretchen. I really liked this poem! I’m currently homeless. Been that way since July, but I’m moving up on the housing list and hope to have something within the next 3-4 months. Best wishes on your writing projects! -Jim

  6. There is a restraint in this poem. Which is nice. It really works to communicate a message. The balance in each line is nice as well.

  7. Sounds very rough. I have always been wary of Los Angeles. And I do recall Phil Collins so well. Perfect match to your poetry.

  8. Mary says:

    Gretchen, your ‘footnote’ was very moving, as was your poem. City of Angels indeed…I am glad they were watching over you! You are definitely a kind person to give your last dollar, making you one of the angels too.

    • Well it was more of a figure of speech but I did buy dinner for some from time to time and always tried to give my daily bus pass to someone who needed it at the end of my work day. I try though 🙂

  9. Tony says:

    Great writing Gretchen. It would be so easy to be overstated in a poem like this – a danger you have skilfully avoided.

    • One time, when one man kept following me and asking me to go home with him I opened my phone and hit redial and started screaming like a mad woman saying ridiculous things “Is she okay?” Shouting as loud as I could until he finally ran away. Glad he finally got the hint, my poor friend.

      • Tony says:

        There are places I won’t go to at night, and I’m 6’1″ and I used to play rugby – plus I’m inherently suspicious rather than trusting… Glad you managed to stay/be kept safe.

  10. Brian Carlin says:

    Made the hairs go up, seeing we’ve written similar things today…mines about Angels in my local town centre…good work Gretchen

  11. aprille says:

    You have the gift of enthralling readers with a pencil sketch

  12. Girl, you made me cry. I too have such a heart for those in need. I loved the spirit this poem grew from. Loved the line, swollen layers of smoke. Not many could write that line.

  13. Pamela says:

    Gretchen, a poignant poem about life. There but for the grace of god go I. I am from NYC and I became friendly with many homeless in my life and many of my family/friends didn’t approve. I have always thought some people just get down on their luck is all. Everyone deserves a chance.


  14. Renee Espriu says:

    Love this Gretchen. Makes me think of home. Was born in Downey, CA, a suburb of LA and I do believe you did have Angels around you to keep you safe. Big cities can be dangerous places so happy that you can write about it now.

  15. ayala says:

    Compassionate and lovely write.

  16. kkkkaty says:

    You have a generous heart and I see your poem coming straight from it..

  17. ManicDdaily says:

    Yikes – very vivid both internally and out. k.

  18. kthorpe says:

    Terrible and sad and beautiful at once. Marvelously done, as always, Gretchen. Do you ever send your poems to any magazines or journals? I don’t know anything about it but I think you should.

  19. Your poem, as always, so moving. And your frankness– openness in the explanation that followed is so honorable. I’m so glad that you shared that 🙂 ~peace, Jason

  20. claudia says:

    i have been to L.A. just lately and get what you’re talking about… a huge homeless population and it just rips the heart apart ..and even more in the light of all the hollywood glamour on the other side of the city… love the compassion in this..

  21. ninotaziz says:

    I was in New York and LA many years ago, and I suspect the world is a much scarier place today.

    I am glad you were safe, Gretchen. Bless you.

    We are beginning to see a burgeoning urban culture in this part of the world – and we hope we can manage its transformation for the better. I would hate to think we would lose some intrinsic values – openness, smiles, trusting nature (this is slowly dying – it is simply impractical) sharing, getting to know your neighbour!

  22. MarinaSofia says:

    I like the sobriety with which you wrote about what must have been a very emotional experience. Not a word missing, but also not a word too much! Perfect.

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