Poem for April 4: Crimes of Habit, by Dee Allen

[This poem was published in the March issue of the People’s Tribune. Click the link in the menu in the right column of this page to read more in the People’s Tribune.]

It is unlawful to SIT
On statues
On hydrants

Poet and activist Dee Allen is arrested at SF City Hall, protesting a demonstration by "Minutemen"

On curbs
On stone fences
Near fountains
City government declares public property.

It is illegal to LIE
Down on stairs
On sidewalks
On park lawns
On bus stop benches
In doorways after business hours
City government considers such public acts

But where else can a world-weary
Body searching for a warm spot
Free from harassment go to
Liberate their feet? Momentarily
Liberate their shoulders & back
From the bearing weight of
Only possessions? What else can
They do when even
Prison-like shelters won’t let them

New police chief
Wants natural reflexes, habits
To be punitive crimes.


—Dee Allen, 2/21/10

[People’s Tribune Editor’s Note: San Francisco is attempting
to pass an anti-homeless ‘sit/lie’ law
that would criminalize sitting or lying on
a public sidewalk in certain parts of the
City; further criminalizing and harassing
people who have nowhere else to be, a
violation of constitutional, civic and human
rights. San Francisco had a similar law
from 1968-1979, which was found unconstitutional
and repealed in 1979. (The city
of Berkeley put a similar law on its books,
but the ‘sit’ portion of that law was overturned.)
The Civil Rights work group of the
San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness,
along with other groups, is organizing
against this latest attack
. ]

Dee Allen is a California performance poet who speaks out on a variety of social issues, from war and race relations to security and state control over citizens. He explores the role of individual and collective fear in separating people from one another and enabling the continuation of injustices and group prejudice. In Dee’s work, the mass media, intentionally or not, can help create a climate for violence against and negative treatment of certain minorities by presenting material in a context which is likely to leave people feeling powerless, afraid, and defined by limiting stereotypes. In contrast, his work explores how fear and isolation as social constructs can be seen as the true enemies, rather than members of any particular race, ethnicity, or minority or majority social group.

Dee may be reached at Pathogen@sanfranmail.com and lives in San Francisco. He enjoys speaking live and has performed at a variety of charity events, including a Food not Bombs benefit last March in the Mission District. Read more of Dee Allen’s poetry by clicking this link.


2 Responses to “Poem for April 4: Crimes of Habit, by Dee Allen”

  1. Cristina Deptula Says:

    Hi! Glad to see Dee Allen’s work featured here, he certainly has a message and something to say! Was an honor to feature him in our publication.

    And I agree regarding not criminalizing homelessness…and we here at Synchronized Chaos have included more poetry from Dee over the years we’ve been around. Please feel free to search his name in the box at the top right corner of our website, http://www.synchchaos.com for a collection of the work he’s had published with us. We have a few other pieces discussing working-class and unemployed people’s experiences, such as our review of Javier Clorio’s film on California’s Mexican immigrant laborers’ experiences: http://synchchaos.com/?p=1378

    Also, we feature poetry from Liz Hughes, who’s staying in her car with her daughter for the time being till she can find work in south San Jose – http://synchchaos.com/?p=1578. Her daughter, Katy, is seventeen and a quite accomplished artist: http://synchchaos.com/?p=1702

    And we have a review of a lovely documentary by Berkeley filmmaker Claire Burch about Yume, an old homeless gentleman who passed away and the memorial service his friends held for him: http://synchchaos.com/?p=441

    Thank you very much again for mentioning Dee Allen and for finding the description of his poetic work…please feel free to contact and spotlight anyone else from Synchronized Chaos Magazine, also! Glad to see you’re celebrating people’s life experiences, hard-earned wisdom, and artwork here.

  2. Robin jokes Says:

    This poem has spoken my heart and mind. In the name of civilization people are being made a robot, controlled by someone. The state government wants us to move every step on their command. they say we cannot show our human behavior. we should not be what we are. The poem speaks about the harassment of our liberty which do no harm to anyone or anything. but the harassment is doing very bad harm to those who are very poor. it is a very great poem. i salute for writing such marvelous poem.
    Thank you
    Robin jokes

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