Tampa poet Yuki Jackson reflects on homelessness and the ‘Night Wash’

Poet’s Notebook.

click to enlarge Before experiencing her recent and on-going transient status, Tampa poet Yuki Jackson was working 7 days a week, juggling multiple part-time jobs and gigs in addition to writing and voluntarily operating a youth program. - Adobe
Adobe
Before experiencing her recent and on-going transient status, Tampa poet Yuki Jackson was working 7 days a week, juggling multiple part-time jobs and gigs in addition to writing and voluntarily operating a youth program.


I have experienced bouts of homelessness over this past year which I’m both ashamed to say and feel is important to talk about. I remember growing up my mom would exclaim, “you look like a homeless!” whenever my hair looked unkempt or if I carried a lot in my shoulder bag. Now looking back, that statement was simultaneously working as a reprimand, deterrent and ill-fated prediction.

No parent wishes for their child to become homeless, in fact it seems that most of our efforts as human beings is to avoid it at all costs. The mark of a responsible and moral citizen seems to be the ability to pay for your own shelter. And those who have trouble doing so, well, there’s something wrong with them. What’s wrong with those people? Can’t they just go out and get a job? Make some use of themselves and do something positive? 

Before I experienced my recent and on-going transient status, I was working 7 days a week, juggling multiple part-time jobs and gigs in addition to writing and voluntarily operating a youth program. Twelve hour days were my norm. And I enjoyed being that productive. 

Then when the pandemic shutdown happened, I had to slow down. I worked less and reflected more, which is what I needed. I also soon became physically ill, a condition that had flared up under the stress, leaving me largely bed-bound. Thankfully I was able to medically address the issue over time and recover, coming out the other side with a newfound focus on my well-being.

This focus on my well-being included my mental health, for which I took the action to move out on my own after having rented the same room in someone’s home for almost 10 years. It soon became clear that I could not afford to get my own place, the housing prices forcing me to live with others or be homeless. So I did a bit of both, mostly staying with friends and family or renting a temporary room, with occasional days of staying outdoors. 

It is a humbling experience to not have a stable place to live. The uncertainty of this nomadic existence is one that I give respect to the ancestors, but one that doesn’t work in our modern society, unless you’re traveling for work. And maybe in some way, I was. 

While I recognize the value I can extract from the experience, I don’t wish homelessness on anyone. The most basic rights that we are entitled to as human beings are food, clothing and shelter. And unfortunately, this shelter part is eluding millions of us.

Night Wash 

I spend the night inside
and outside a 24-hour laundromat,
watching the kind of customers
who do their laundry at 3:00am
avoid looking me in my eyes

me a woman wearing a hoodie,
pulling a large suitcase
with nowhere to go 

do they know I am a teacher
and does that even matter
when I am without home 

I keep walking back
for the warmth, the light, the wifi
and the sound of each cycle turning

Yuki Jackson is raising money to build an arts and tutoring for youth in Sulphur Springs.

Support local journalism in these crazy days. Our small but mighty team works tirelessly to bring you news on how coronavirus is affecting Tampa and surrounding areas. Please consider making a one time or monthly donation to help support our staff. Every little bit helps.

Subscribe to our newsletter and follow @cl_tampabay on Twitter.

About The Author

Yuki Jackson

Yuki Jackson is an African-American and Japanese poet and educator based in Tampa Bay, Florida.Her work has appeared in Cosmonauts Avenue, Foundry, Entropy and other publications. She is also the founder of The Battleground, a youth program in the Sulphur Springs...
Scroll to read more Local Arts articles

Newsletters

Join Creative Loafing Tampa Bay Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.