Nobody Chases the Seagulls Away

A homeless woman is sleeping on the beach in front of the Radical offices. I’ve seen her before. She is mentally ill. The seagulls are rummaging through her pitiful possessions, like vultures descending upon a corpse. I should chase off the scavengers, then organise and secure her things while she rests.

But I don’t. There are too many in need of help. I am overwhelmed. My reaction is to ignore them all.

As a boy I wondered about the pictures of starving children on TV, surly the camera crew could feed them. I’ve traveled the world since then, and I’ve passed a million hungry kids in Africa alone.

But this is Venice Beach, a wealthy part of the richest country that has ever existed. Sixteen million tourists come here every year. Forty-thousand people stroll this boardwalk each day. And hundreds of people have walked by that woman since I began writing this.

Yet there she still lies; skin-wrapped bones draped in rags.

And nobody chases away the seagulls.

Not even me.

Welcome to America.


  1. Jeffrey

    I like this poem, not only because it blessed my boring email inbox unexpectedly, but also because it was crafted with pure artistry.

  2. Fiona

    It’s not enough to notice and write about it.
    Every American has the power to change that woman’s life in some way
    through service, but they choose not to. Just as you have demonstrated.
    Perhaps the minds of the fortunate aren’t actually moved by circumstances such as hers,
    but rather they judge it from a place of superiority and even disgust, and look for someone to blame–i.e. “the government.”
    America has become a nation of, “it’s not my problem” thinkers, when indeed it is every
    American’s problem that profit matters more than people and greed is an enviable and
    celebrated trait–as the recent election proves.
    Maybe the simple act a shooing away a seagull would change her mindset and change her life.

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