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Working Professionally with Children and Youth in Care
CYC-Online Issue 132 FEBRUARY 2010 / BACK
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Lost places

Mark Krueger

In my last column in December I wrote about what I had learned from Albert Camus about youth and activism in child and youth care. Since then I have been thinking more about work that “appeals to the senses” as Sartre said of Camus' writing, and of Camus' incredible sense of place. With the awareness that poets are some of our best activists, I worked on and revised a few fragment poems from my reflections on lost places of my youth. So many of the places have been torn down, abandoned, “temple-lized,” white-flighted, commercialized, or gentrified. Staying in touch with these feelings I believe helps me have empathy for youth who have never had a home, and/or moved from place to place. It also helps me fight to save some of the remaining places.

Like millions of others, I have also been thinking about Haiti, all the lost people and places. For now, and perhaps always, it is beyond comprehension.

Friday Night at the Sherman Theater

They turned it
into a temple
and beauty salon

The place where I went
to movies as a boy

Mr. Mac, the owner,
white bucks and sport coat
Looney Tunes

One eye closed
the other on the screen to get
a feel for Dr Strangelove

Landscapes and faces
in gasps of air as lips
and fingers explored
the Gospel of lust

Not so different really


From the Basement of City Lights Bookstore

In the basement stacks
philosophy and the
rat tat tat of words

Sartre’s The Wall
beneath Duras, Camus
Oppen and Miller

The rhythms of poets
reading aloud
on San Francisco sidewalks

deaf again beyond
North Beach a refined figure
rises to a dark room
and locked door

enters the fray bent over
back to crowd
invisible key in hand


Where the Landfills Used to Be

As I pass on my bicycle
the faceless inspector
sits in bib overalls in
in the shadow of a toll both

watching engine oil, toys
and appliances separated
from ground waters
in irretrievable containers
of recycled childhoods

In those days
when God was a farmer
with a straw hat
driving a cloud

Bears came to
the dump at night and
the other was
in this divide
after the sorting


Driving Center Street

Once people found
a good day’s work here
on Center Street

Vibrant with box offices
and pretty girls and boys
strolling together

Glad we hadn't
moved to the suburbs
we came for the night life
from our homes
a few blocks away

Now vacant companies
and idle workers
on street corners

wait for songsters
to return from
ranch houses

not far enough away
to be in the country


Writing at Alterra

Back North in a
coffee shop
in Milwaukee

Dylan, BB King, passing
students, and mountain
footsteps quiet the hum

Like the traffic
in Camus sidewalk cafe
the day after
he left the Via Appia

and found self again
in the spaces in-between
where nothing
exhausted the silence


The Quarter

Unlike any place
I had been in my youth
before the storm
Hurricanes were
the drink of moist magnolia
and booze scented
nights of jazz

and garbage scented
aftermath mornings
in Jackson Square

Preservation hall
they called the place
I heard the wisdom
of generations
built on the high ground

above the city
that washed away
years later


Once I helped people clean up after a tornado. Nothing was where it was supposed to be. Homes, furniture, photos and appliances were spread and splattered all over. Trees were down. A boat was in one of the trees still standing. The whole thing was surreal. People seemed so lost. Their faces were blank. Then, they dug in and started cleaning up. I can’t image what it is like when a country has been flattened. People who have grown up in countries destroyed by natural disasters and war can offer some insight, I am sure. Where does one start other than to relocate the self and begin to rebuild with the resilience of youth?

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