Print Email

Editor's Comments on 'Move It Along'

 , January 26, 2017

"Move it along" paints a portrait of the forcible eviction of homeless people from public spaces. The poem's chanting sonic quality evokes a sense of constant movement, so that the reader begins to viscerally feel the burdensome experience of having to be constantly on the move. The repetition also reminds me of the poetic pleas I've often heard from homeless folks seeking food, shelter, money, or perhaps just to be seen. The use of repetition - in this poem and on city sidewalks - serves to make the speaker's message song-like, plaintive, and unforgettable. There are poets all throughout our cities.

We don't know what the next four years will hold, but many of us who work with low-income or homeless communities and those targeted by law enforcement fear for our patients' safety in the face of a new administration's domestic and social policies. While homelessness has decreased overall in the past year, disparities persist. For instance, homelessness in cities with increasing living costs far outstrips the national average, as this recent story about Washington, DC illustrates. Furthermore, low-income and unemployed people, LGBT youth, victims of domestic violence, and people with mental illness, including addiction, are over represented in the homeless population.

This poem doesn't delve into statistics about homeless, however. Rather, as most effective poems do, it evokes a particular emotional cadence that echoes in the reader's mind long after the final "move it along." And as physicians, part of our job is to bear witness without looking away. Our patients' stories should continue to echo in our minds years later. It is this iterative quality of medical narratives that can both improve us as health care providers and move us to political action. As winter hunkers down and outdoor conditions become even more perilous for those without a roof over their heads, this poem serves as a stark reminder of too many people's daily reality.

Irène Mathieu