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Coffeehouse Poets: Homeless treasure

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Jen Lynn

The Yakima Coffeehouse Poets, a nonprofit formed in 2014 to represent the interests of poets and poetry lovers in Central Washington, is the organization behind this poetry column, which runs on the fourth Thursday of each month. It features inland Washington poets and their winning poems from the Yakima Coffeehouse Poets’ annual contest.

Learn more about the contest and the organization at and

Jen Lynn has lived most of her life in the Yakima Valley, raising and homeschooling five children, farming apples and teaching students to drive and to write. She is the incoming director of LiTFUSE, an annual poetry workshop in Tieton. Some of her work can be found in “The Shrub-Steppe Poetry Journal”; “Manastash,” a student literary journal; and on


after Laura Read

The summer my friend’s husband was deployed to Afghanistan

(after my husband ran),

we chased homeless men in the streets.

In conspicuous sparrows with shattered wings,

we found vessels of infinite treasure.

Brian, who didn’t trust us, said but I don’t have friends.

Juan, the kid who always smiled and limped, said my mom

was a prostitute. She was drowned in a bathtub.

And what is Yakima

without these men? The vacant Baptist church

where Tony slept behind bushes still stands

hollow, with welcoming steps and the bench where Dale, who said

his family wouldn’t speak to him, sat watching over everyone — a respite

for wayfarers wandering up and down Yakima

Avenue. No longer do we see Denzel

who died in his wheelchair behind The Depot. No more Cowboy

in his oversized hat, toothless and shirtless, who cried when he lost his Chihuahua

until we found her in the alley by St. Michaels. No more Barry

who loved music, who said I hear voices that aren’t there. Fred,

Gary, Tom, Bobby, and Wolfman

Jack no longer stand in the sandwich line in the parking lot

behind Bank of the West. Our friends,

distant glimmering stars, their light still traveling toward us,

shared with us on a lonely road.

Bobby said my daughter is a doctor in the Navy. She doesn’t know where I am.

Barry said I like to make music. I hear voices that aren’t there.

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