Selected 2017 Poems & Essays 

Written by residents of five family shelters on Chicago’s South Side:

Maria’s and Believe shelters at Margaret’s Village

A Safe Haven South and A Safe Haven West

Primo Center for Women and Children


By Herbert Johnson

Kicking Apples

Where we hibernate

In our habitat

Watching the Avalanche


As a horse goes walking by wearing a Hat


Back Home

By Kimvalyn Miller

First, I would go way into the future


I would hop into my flying car

And have lunch at the moon bar

I would visit my cousins on Mars

And then I’d come back home

To see the stars


Don’t Judge

By Catherine “Cathy” Jones

Just because you feel that you are at the end of your rope

Don’t give up

The man upstairs will always have your back

Do not ever judge a book by its cover

Before you talk about a person

Try walking in their shoes


I am I am the Way

By Catherine Paluck

Better your live

Because I will like to do better

Way I’m in here

I will like to you my beneficial ways

I will like to be bold in my ways

I’m a black person

I will like to play bat and ball

Banter is good

Bill had a book and it was beautiful and he put it in a box

And we beyond beware and be butterfly


Keep on Fighting

By Marand R

Sometime I just want to hibernate

Cause it feel like a avalanche and I can’t keep from falling.

I know I got to be awesome for my children

Because they truly ae the apple of my eye.

Sometime it feel like the weight of a horse on my chest,

Living every day in my habitat.

Makes me want to take off my hat

Cause I know I got to do a karate kick.

Cause life is worth the fight.


Lord’s Will

By Talia Brumfield

Life is like a lesson learned that comes with leadership, being lonely and sometimes lost, but often times it takes the right situation full of love to lift you up and learn that there is no such thing as being left.

You can go and sit at a library and books can loan thoughts and feelings, like a lunch sponsored by life that fills you up with knowledge and compassion.

It’s a lovely feeling to be encouraged each day.

Nothing but waking up and starting over can make the stress go away.



By Kimvalyn Miller

I was rubbing sand between my toes

I smelt the fresh shore water with my nose

Then off I went and started to doze

Watching the sunset and all I chose


The waves like a hose

And then I woke up like a rose



By Cara Campbell

Bill was bold and beautiful

He had a black butterfly that he kept in a box

He thought it was better because it was beyond bold

The banter he used about the butterfly was something to beware



By Tiara Harris

Be butterfly tell yourself

You are butterfly

Nobody is not going to stop telling yourself butterfly

No matter what if somebody tell you, you are butterfly my brother

Tell me in


Who Am I

By Catherine “Cathy” Jones

I am the one who help keep you safe

I am the one who wash your clothes

I am the one who gives you money when you are broke

I am the one who would lay down they life for you

I am the one who will go to bat for you even if you are wrong

I am the one who help bring you in this world with the help of the man upstairs



By Kimvalyn Miller

I would go to the future , first of all, 2013

I would hop in my flying car,

And have lunch at the Moon Bar,

Eat until its done

I would visit my cousins on Mars,

And then..

I would come back home,

To see the stars



By Natasha “Lady T” Eskridge

I am beautiful beyond the box you think I am

I will fly like a black butterfly

So beware how you come to me cause I beneficial to you

Cause I will bite you like a bat

Don’t treat me like a bill you fold up and put in your pocket

Because I can give you banter

You will write me down in a chapter of your book of life C



By L. Lockhart

Peace is what America needs

Its something that brings us together

And emotion that everyone can feel

A substance that is universal.

That all can understand,

But last, but not lease.

Peace is Real

So America compromise on that!!!


I Am the One Who…

By Kimvalyn Miller

I am the one who

Doesn’t need someone to

Tell me my own future

I am the one who

Values myself and

Appreciates others’ opinions

I am the one who

Doesn’t let the past

Define me

I am the one who

Is the odd one out

In every group

I am the one who

Is out to make a difference

Rather than a change

I am the one who

Is the one to

Want to earn




By Sandra Taylor

Better in life because life is beneficial

Bold, black life

Bats banter full of bills

And books are beautiful

Life a box beyond

Things beware of butterflies


My Dog

By Christian Adeyemi

My dog, Bill, is black, bold, beyond

He chases a butterfly box as beautiful as me

The banter is as black the bat


The Change

By Jazaira Scuefield

When life gives you lemons, you try your best to make lemonade

Even though you can’t change the fact that lemons are sour,

You add sugar to bring sweetness

No matter what you go through in life,

Never give up

Because you can always add that sugar



By Dunn

The innocence in a world full of evil

Is like a cold glass of lemonade

In a very shattered glass.

The innocence in a world full of evil

Is like a bouquet of pretty roses

On top of a muddy grave.

The innocence in a world full of evil

Is a baby’s smile—is a kid’s smile

Even though they living in poverty.



By Taquise Jones

The conversation between Mr. Triangle and Ms. Circle will be the last cause Ms. Circle going to pay Mr. Diamond to smother Mr. Triangle inside Mr. Box

Ms. Circle: Mr. Triangle, please stop poking me

Mr. Triangle: Girl stop you just mad cause you smooth and I’m sharp

Ms. Circle: No I’m not I just don’t be treated like I’m a balloon like time. Do you remember?

Mr. Triangle: You want me just admit it?

Ms. Circle: How you come to that…just let me know

Mr. Triangle: Cause I sent you a box with a red bow

Ms. Circle: So that was you…it’s coo, you going to pay

Ms. Circle goes to her lover Mr. Diamond and tells him that Mr. Triangle been stalking her and she was scared he would hurt her. Mr. Diamond said he would take care of the problem by scaring him. But Ms. Circle had other plans like killing him and putting him in a box…the box with the big red bow.


Selected 2016 Poems & Essays

Written by residents of Safe Haven South and Safe Haven West, family shelters on Chicago’s South Side

By La Sparkle Crosby

If I could only

If I could just

If I had a

A little less

If maybe

If someday

If you

Could someway

If when

Man I can never

See the end

Wait logo it

I know what

To do

If I get started

If I keep going

If I don’t stop

If I could make it

All the way

If I could


By A. Spriggs

I’m willing I’m able to receive teach me something new

I can guarantee I will excede.

Give the instructions I get it done indeed.

Or leave me alone with a task and you’ll be more than pleased.


By Felicia Lea

Be a leader not a follower.

Live life and be happy.

Be yourself.

Let God lead your life.

Live every moment as if it were your last.

Put God ahead of your household.

Live and let live.

Live in peace.


By Latoya Hawkins

Even through my own struggles

I try to be there for others

I try to give the best advice

I can because I know what

It’s like to have to deal with

Things on your own. I do what

I can to help them get to where

I’m going cause there’s no place like



By Violet Evans

I came from


I came from

Spending time with my children

I came from


I came from

Take me to the king

I came from


I came from


I came from



By Iesha Manning

I open new doors to life

I once was lost but now I am found

God turn my life upside down

I got pushed down on the ground

Then God turned my situation around

Life is good Life is great

It really makes me appreciate.

Be good Be-kind

And use your great mind

Reach out and touch somebody’s hand.

To  make the world a better land.


By Jasmine Jemison

An angel appeared to let me see

Exactly what a positive future could be.

You try and try as time goes by to

Shoot your dreams sky high. A positive

Future you can claim as long as you

Stick to your game. Planing things that you

Can do will bring a positive future to you.

Positive future I will succeed, because

I know that’s God’s plan for me.


By Laneva Baptiste

I wanted to fly

Can you take

Me far away give

Me a star to reach

For tell make what

It take I’ll go so

High I’ll go so

High my feet won’t

Touch the ground stitch my

Wings pull the string and

I bought these dreams that

All falls down.


By Donteah Harris

My skin is what he created for touch

My eyes is created to see. I am the

Image of him, he so loves me. He created

Me to be the other half to reproduce.

He put me here for use. He knew he

Needed strong survivors. I am a striver.

He made me to fight for prosperity.

He made me to comfort his eyes. He

Loved the creation of me. It was no

Surprise. I am worth the strength of

All hearts. I am worth the love of God.

I am worth caring. I am worth loving.


Inner Peace

By Rod Jones

Inner peace comes from within

And I pray to my heavenly father that I

keep from sin

A peace of mind is all I need as I pray

At night and continue to grow my seed

Sometimes my mind breaks out in a  rage

I stay to myself as if I am in a cage

But as I keep the peace the sunlight

Does shine

And everything I have lost and I

Will reign and claim it as mine.


Dreaming of you

By Takila Richmond

I’m dreaming of you

When i lay down and rest


My heart is pumping

Slowly saying your

The best


I have a smile

On my face but

I only see you

For a little while 


I wish I could

See you longer

but when I dream

Of you I always

Get good rest


By Ebony Mann

What comes to mind

When I look at the picture



I am truth

Is her name Naomi

Or Ruth


Is she quick to call a truce

Is her quest for lies or truth


Or like the image in the picture

Does her life need

A little spruce


By Leslie English

  • Being alive
  • My kids
  • Money
  • Taking care of my kids
  • Being with my boyfriend
  • Having my own crib, car, and job
  • Not keeping in touch my family
  • Having a baby for the first time
  • Not having to stay in a shelter


By Anonymous

Dear Future Self,

I love you because you have committed to care for me in a way i can do for myself in this moment

I am proud of you because you will find a way to us every lesson mistakes…

The obstacles and fears I overcame were self acceptance, pride, self…

I was able to overcome my fears by reaching into my inner self to find the god within me and being open to my best seld coming forward.

I will continue to have me and you…

I forgive you for being so sore that you will forget to hold me. But forget you must.

I am thankful for having had a nurturing life although often…

I wish for more time to got to know fully who you are.

I will show my love for you by always thinking of you in my…


I Remember

By C. Thomas

I remember my neighborhood as a child where i had a favorite store.  The store was filled with the smell of chiles rellenos. I smell chiles rellenos once when i was walking out of a restaurant, and after that i went to the store and bought chiles rellenos to make for dinner in my apartment.


Selected 2015 Poems & Essays

Dreams Come True

By Tahirah Richmond (A Safe Haven West)

Don’t give up.
For if you do,
Your dreams will not come true.
It will make you blue.

Keep striving towards your dreams.
For when the day is here,
I’ll be happy to see.
And I will lose all fear.


Don’t give up!

By Jeremy Kelly (A Safe Haven West)


Fly away bird
Fly, fly, far, far, far

Away baby bird
Don’t fall baby bird
Get back up and
fly again and again

Fly fly fly away
Bird Bird Bird



By Timothy Reed (A Safe Haven West)

If I could only,
If I could just
If I had a little less.

If maybe,
If someday,
If when
If then,
Man I can never see the end…

Wait I got it
I know what to do…

If I get started
If I keep going
If I don’t stop…


America that I see… New World

By Roberta Walker (A Safe Haven West)

"America Will be one day" by Rita Pansky of the Adler Art Therapy Student Association
“America Will Be One Day” by Rita Pansky of the Adler Art Therapy Student Association

Black and white is what some people see…
That’s not the America that I’d wish it to be…
Sometimes thru all the negativity all I can see is grey…
But it takes me back when I was a young girl feeding horses hay!!!
It all seems so simple that some how we could get along…
What was done, was done but who could we actually say was wrong…
Our minds are stronger…
Our ideas are longer…
Put the past behind us and move forward…
You can be whoever you want in America
The land of the free and the home of the brave…
We must learn to love one another friend or enemy
After all that’s how God said it should be.


America will be America One Day

By Chequirnda Sanders (A Safe Haven West)

America will be America if dreams were put into place
There are more abandoned homes in America than homeless people
One day America will be America
Without crooked politics and racism
Without degrading one another, instead more uplifting each other
More sticking together and helping each other without gossip and backbiting
Where people can speak their mind and accept constructive criticism
Without worrying about what the next person thinks, and express yourself boldly
America will be America one day
America will be America one day


The Dancer

Original artwork by Yarden Coltrell of the Adler Art Therapy Sudent Association
Original artwork by Yarden Coltrell of the Adler Art Therapy Sudent Association

By Lenore Smith (A Safe Haven South)

I just saw the most incredible dancer I have ever seen in my life.
Every move was filled with so much passion and emotion.
You could feel every move as if she was a songstress singing the last song she would ever sing.
The dancing had so much soul and power it moved me to my feet.
It made me want to get up and dance.
It was so moving and touching I don’t think I will ever see a performance like that again in my life.



By Sharunda Adams (A Safe Haven South)

I wonder if she hears me
I hear strange things at times.
I see her in my dreams
I won’t be able to touch her again
I am living my life

I pretend that she is here
I feel like crying
I touch a dream
I worry about life
I cry every night
I am living my life

I understand moments of life
I say lets start all over in life
I dream we were together again
I try to pretend that you were still here
I hope we will be together again
I am living life


Only God knows

By Ashanti Williams (A Safe Haven South)

In the future,
My heart will be happy
Clapping and humming songs of joy
No longer paranoid, annoyed or just sore
My bank account?
Oh so serious-neva poor
Closet lookin like a Foot Locker store
My kids- so famous, so rich

That pain from when I was four,
Daddy best friend knockin at my door
Or should I say bustin in
That was then
I was ten

Twenty-five now,
Twenty-five reasons how, why?
My life makes me feel high
My five-month-old and four-year-old
Can believe what they’re told
Precious, ambitious, religious and safe
From predators and those fake

Keep your head up now,
Say yes to mom and no to drugs
No to thugs and yes to love
Love you
Love me
And be…?

Only God knows



By Ronald Salley (A Safe Haven West)

If if was a fifth, I think I would be drunk
If if could play ball, I think it would dunk!
If if had a name, I think it would be mine,
If if had eyes, I think it’d tell time!

But for real, for real,
If if was a man, living in this land,
I think it would be forced to take a radical stand.


A Pipe Dream

By Margaret Barnes (Our Lady of Solace)

Selling a pipe dream, gettin’ your hopes up, making you believe you can have it all.

Blowin’ your head up with bright lights & caviar dreams.

Money thrown around, but your pockets are dry as a desert… Where is that sweet pipe dream?

Struggle, strive hard, make the bread, but come out with crumbs…Wish we had that pipe dream.

Fancy dinners, slammin’ outfits, heels to kill for tryin’ hard to live that pipe dream.

Truly everybody make-believes in Hollywood searching for the Pipe Dream.



By Margaret Barnes (Our Lady of Solace)

Real-life is a never-ending journey of responsibility & obstacles.

Decision-making is often a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation.

Real-life should be full of color, places, & people pleasing to the eye

Real-life should be a pen & pad, records, a beat box.

Real-life should be love for each other- nonjudgmental and fulfilling.

Real-life should be absent of constant hatred & criticism.



By Anonymous

If it’s not their story, most politicians don’t care, the only concerns they have is their status and sitting in their elected chair.

We don’t fight for services that’ll only provide for our own families but for those who’ve fallen thru the cracks, what a tragedy.

The problem now is that we have this newly elected governor, whom I feel is the devil himself, he made so many promises and was truly elected because of his wealth.

Chicago shouldn’t be a place where people are sleeping on the streets, nor standing in food lines just to get food from churches for their families to eat.

“These new cuts to funding are going to cause the population of homelessness and crime to grow; pay a bill, feed your family, or rob someone, some don’t know.

It frustrates me to be within the shelter system yet, not receiving any help, is this continuous reality, the cards my life’s been dealt…

My son sees the pain and sometimes tears that stream down my face, he comforts me by saying “Mom, as long as I’m with you, I’ll stay any place”

I often have to remind myself that “this too, shall pass”, and this feeling of hopelessness isn’t going to last.

Thank God for the pain and the people that I’ve encountered on this never-ending path of hope, because without the pain I’d just probably learned to simply cope.

Instead I’m a phoenix rising out of the ashes more resilient than I ever thought I could be, not burned but a little scaved and not really realizing how many times I’ve actually been saved.

I’m a fighter of wars that have yet to be won but, I’m in it for the long haul because the Coalition has given me a platform for my voice and we come together as one, when people see the “Black and Yellow”, they know we’re coming and not leaving until the work is done.

This is my story… thank you for allowing me to use my voice; I speak for not just myself but for others who may feel that they have no other choice.



By Anonymous

There’s delight in daylight,
when the devil isn’t at the door.

Full of delirious, delicious dreamer’s talk-
there’s no devotion that wouldn’t be a delight.

Even dying- would I really be so distraught?
I want to drink down my destiny.

Then all this passes.
It turns to night.

I’m a diplomat again watching my own life-
The night has dropped down to bewilder me.



By Kristen (A Safe Haven West)

Before I got here I was lost
And I was determined to leave there at any cost
Beyond being out of my mind with confusion
My life could have been called “the big delusion”
But now that I’m here I’m on the right track
And when I get clouded again the only answer is bounce back
Keep the negativity away, keep a smile on my face
All the good will fall into the right place
When I finally get there all I’ll have to do is keep up the steady pace
And when I look back there I will have won the race


Selected 2014 Poems & Essays

Letting Go

By Malika Harris (New Life)

I used to hold on so tight.
So strong was my hold.
I thought I would lose myself.
I held on with all my might.
Too strong was my hold that I almost lost my spiritual wealth.
I’ve since learned to let things be.
I’ve since learned to allow my spirit to grow.
I’ve since learned to allow my sprit to soar free.
I’ve since learned to let go.


Freedom from the Nonexistent Existent Burden

By Elijah (Age 15 – New Life)

A burden.
That is what you were to me.
We were in two different worlds.
But you were right there in my face.

While at the same time you were never there at all.
I used to long to know you more.
I always wondered if we had any similarities.
Not anymore.

You were confining.
Your very name put me in a cage.
Now I’ve found the key.
I’m free.

Free to be who I want, what I want, and follow my dreams.
There’s nothing holding me back.
Not even you.
Although you were never there for me.



By Ciara Curtis (New Life)

I have a need to release.
To be free from my grief within.
So that I can live again.
And nurture the child within that lives.

I’ve always longed for a better future.
With new beginnings to come.
And dreams fulfilled from vision.
And thoughts that longed forever more.

It’s never too late to start again.
My mom would always just take it one day at a time.
It gets easier as you pray.