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PoetrySnaps! Austin Davis: Night Walk

Courtesy Austin Davis

In this week’s PoetrySnaps! segment, we hear from Arizona-based poet Austin Davis. His writing is often inspired by the outreach and advocacy work he does with people experiencing homelessness, addiction and mental health issues. During this holiday season of abundance, Davis’s poem Night Walk speaks to the need for humanity and kindness to all.

Austin Davis:

I spend every day on the streets. Every day we're out there getting people into detox, rehab, shelter, helping families get hotels while they wait for shelter placement. That's a really big issue right now for families especially with the wait list so large, there's this interim period where families are waiting for shelter but don't have anything. I work with a lot of families and folks in domestic violence situations and just all our community out here on the streets.

We do an event every Sunday called the Sunday Family Picnic. It's a three to five course meal, resource fair and exchange, lots of blankets and clothes. It's a place for people to come and take a breath and just exist for a while after everything they've experienced during the week. At the heart of it, everything we do on the streets is based on the idea that everyone needs a friend.

A lot of the poems that I've written about the streets are about real experiences and real people. It really depends on the poem, but I want to use my writing as a tool to help have these conversations about homelessness, to break down some of the stigmas around homelessness, and just try to bring our community together through the use of art and conversation.

night walk

layla and her kids
sleep on a bridge
that frowns over the freeway

wrapped in blankets
on a yellow slab of foam
the baby is silent despite the sirens

cars whizz by below us
and i pass layla a smoke

so many people
are off to house parties and hookups
horror movies and football games,
her son jace says

he spits off the guardrail
the city put around the bridge
to stop people from jumping

it lands on a windshield
and he laughs and i laugh
and i smoke and he doesn’t

the car lessens to light
and i pretend i don’t hear jace
when he asks if joy

is a currency
we should spend
all at once

since we’re bound to be
robbed of it
one of these nights

About the poet:

Austin Davis is an Arizona-based poet and the founder of AZ Hugs For the Houseless, an outreach program that fosters dignity, respect and understanding of those living on the streets. Davis is the author of several poetry collections. His new book Compulsive Swim is set for release by Outcast Press in February of 2023.

About the host:

Steven Law is a poet, journalist and educator based in Page, Arizona. He is the author of a collection of poems called Polished.

About the music:

Original music by Flagstaff-based band Pilcrowe.

Steven Law was the co-producer of KNAU’s series PoetrySnaps!
Gillian Ferris was the News Director and Managing Editor for KNAU.