Esther  Altshul  Helfgott:  The Homeless  One

intro part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 part 5 bio/references comments/reviews

The Homeless One Continues


The Homeless One Continues 


In the Back of the Laundromat | Ellen: When Schizophrenia Visits | Ellen’s Good Day |



In the Back of the Laundromat


I don’t want to live in Tent City 4 or in any other tent city.
I want to live in the back of the laundromat, alone,
where it’s warm and I can wrap myself in towels
and discarded sweaters.
People think I’m crazy. They’re afraid of me too,
like the woman named Esther, Genevieve’s friend,
who I saw in the bathroom at Ballard Hospital
that time. Boy, did she run. I guess I smelled bad,
but where am I supposed to wash?
I wish they’d put a shower stall in there, wouldn’t kill ’em.
Not that I’d use it. Who’d watch my cart?
I schlep it all over town,
and now I’m gonna leave it for another homeless person
to pilfer? I don’t think so.
Weren’t those the days when I used to visit Genevieve!
I’d water her flowers even when she’d tell me not to
and leave my bags on her front porch.
Once, I pinned a Valentine to her front door.
She must be 90 by now. The last time I saw her,
Esther was giving her a birthday bash
and that was a couple years back already.
Maybe I’ll pay the old girl a visit.
Oh, but she’ll just think I want more money
and run for a few coins.
Not that I couldn’t use them,
but I’m doing ok. Nobody’s bothering me,
and I’m not bothering anybody else.
So I smell bad. Who cares?
The folks in Wedgwood and Laurelhurst,
Medina, Queen Anne, Bothell?
The good souls in churches and synagogues and mosques
and universities?
I do care, you know, but this is who I am now.
At least I’m not killing anybody. I don’t make bombs
or order them dropped on people’s heads.
I don't put human beings on leashes either, and my name isn’t George W. Bush.
By the way, did I tell you my name is Ellen?*
Yes, it is. My name is Ellen.
Look at me.


                 - Esther Altshul Helfgott


originally published in the homeless person's newspaper
Real Change News
, December 9th - 22, 2004



Ellen: When Schizophrenia Visits


Voices emerge from sidewalks,
and from the bottoms of my feet.
They fall out of trees
and squeak like dead mice
trying to find a new home.
But there is no new home
or old one either.
People I used to know
have gone to other places
and I am alone
with my fruit cake
from somebody else’s Christmas.
Genevieve doesn’t understand this.
Nor does Esther.
Even Crysta doesn’t,
though I like her best
because she knows
that voices are my friends
even when they’re not.


                 - Esther Altshul Helfgott


originally published in the homeless person's newspaper
Real Change News
, July 8, 2004



Ellen’s Good Day


I guess I’ll call my mother, even if we never did get along,
and my sister and brother too. Though they’ll want me
to be normal just like they are, and I can’t be more than I already am.
My brain chemistry’s different from theirs.
Even if they have problems, I’m the one with the schizophrenia --
the one who hears the CIA, the FBI, the trees talking
outside my window.

Here I am in Seattle wandering the streets
like a poor sucker who never had a home.
As if I were just dropped here in these scruffy clothes,
this disoriented mind.
When in reality I was brought up like most Americans
in a regular house, a row house even, in Flatbush,
with neighbors all around
who Mother would call for a cup of sugar
when she’d run out and want to finish a cake before Dad got home.
Dad. He’s the one I got it from. My cousin, Jamey, has it too.
Runs in families. I don’t know ...
Or care.

I need to find a place to eat, a shelter for tonight.
I’ll be damned if I’ll hold up another sign
at the edge of the freeway.
Not today anyway. Seems to be a good one so far.
Probably because I took my meds.
I guess the doctor's right, damn him.
Wish he weren’t such a pain in the ass.
Wonder what kind of life he goes home to,
if he ever needed food to eat,
a place to sleep. Wonder…
What time is it?
The shelter should be open soon.
Maybe I’ll go to the library,
wait there,
find some paper and a pen.
Write a story.
Draw a picture.


                  - Esther Altshul Helfgott


originally published in: Real Change:
Seattle’s progressive weekly community newspaper
(Feb 8-14, 2006, p. 7)















intro part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 part 5 bio/references comments/reviews

The Homeless One Continues


Copyrightę2003, 2004: Esther Altshul Helfgott

originally published by Kota Press, Seattle, WA. 1999, 2000

Cover graphics and design by Harry Jones


Esther Altshul Helfgott's Home Page  and see also



Webdesign: Rudolf Suesske: June 2004