Liz’s Weekend Poetry Series: The Politics Of Poop And Transients

by lizard

In an earlier post that touched on Missoula’s variation of OWS, I mentioned poop and wiping one’s ass.

Well, it appears the poop war between Missoula County commissioners and the occupiers is escalating, with the recent removal of a portable shitter from the courthouse lawn.

Pulling back their shitty olive branch is not all the commissioners are up to. From what I’ve inferred from the article, it would appear there is not yet sufficient grounds for eviction.

“As a result of Occupy Missoula’s unwillingness to help Missoula County solve the problems their camp presents, we are developing a policy that will prohibit camping on county property,” county commissioners Jean Curtiss, Bill Carey and Michele Landquist said in a statement more strongly worded than previous ones.

Such a policy will require a public process.

What we are seeing with our local microcosm of OWS is not merely concern with poop in the bushes. That faux issue is just a stand in for the real issue, which I submit is a general intolerance of the chronically homeless, more commonly referred to as transients by the illustrious Missoulian.

Here’s the problem: Missoula’s occupation has opened up a space where lowly transients might seep in to ratty tents to sleep.

Here’s the solution: from what I’ve heard, “abandoned tents” are already being taken down. Maybe the message is dirty occupiers shouldn’t mix with ice sculpture enthusiasts for First Night. I dunno.

Our other paper, Missoula’s dear Independent, this week has as its feature story an undercover account of being homeless on the streets of Missoula. Jayme Feary does, IMO, a fine job attempting to understand, as an outsider to street culture, what it feels like to live on the margins of acceptable society. To be invisible. It’s worth reading.

With that piece in mind, I can see how the physical occupying presence of maybe a half dozen campers on the courthouse lawn may seem like a meager, vulnerable representation of the broader movement, but it would be a mistake to underestimate the resonance of pointing out how thoroughly the majority are getting snowed by the tippy-top benefactors of this economic squeeze.

Along those lines, I was recently having a not-very-productive argument with Wulfy that somehow became about OWS, which I think may be worth reposting here (sans the nasty stuff):

So, simple factual question: what has the Occupy movement accomplished?

Here’s what I’ve seen, Liz. I’ve seen Occupy Denver burn down a city park. I’ve seen Occupy Missoula deny alcohol on a sight where one in their encampment got an 11 year old so drunk he had to be hospitalized. I’ve seen good people get pepper sprayed and yet not one College President or Mayor (or actually any cop) has even payed the price for the action. So please, instruct me what Occupy has accomplished.

And here’s my response:

first, the shift in messaging. as Obama was letting the GOP define deficit reduction as the most pressing economic concern, OWS forced the issue of income disparity/inequality into the national spotlight. that is not insignificant.

second, the police state. as members of the Obama administration lecture other countries about democracy and human rights, OWS is reminding us exactly what the 1% think about the right to assemble. OWS showed us how Bloomberg’s army, paid in part by JP Morgan and company, eagerly used violence to attack peaceful protestors. and across the country, coordinated raids by militarized police units have shown us, again and again, what our plutocracy is willing to do in order to suppress dissent.

third, direct action. OWS shut down west coast ports. again, not insignificant. there are teeth to this movement, and that has forced attempts to co-opt the momentum, like the president of the SEIU getting arrested to build her street cred, then endorsing Obama to position their org for crumbs from the self-destructive effects of neoliberalism.

and finally, if you listen to Obama’s Kansas speech, even our sellout prez is trying to reignite the illusion of his populism by adopting the rhetoric of the 99%.

thankfully, unlike the tea party, OWS is not interested in validating our hopelessly corrupt two party political system. you can try and claim this movement isn’t “political” because they aren’t endorsing candidates, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been significant political ramifications already from this 3 month insurrection against the US plutocracy.


Before getting to the poem part of this poem series, I’d like to give a nod to Sherri Downing, coordinator of the Montana Council on Homelessness. Helping to tell the stories of those who die on the too often unacknowledged margins of our society is a worthy cause. Toward that end, here is a poem I wrote a few months ago. About Joe.



he wasn’t dead yet
but he would die just a few hours later
after I left
after I sat there looking him over
feet gnarled from old frostbite
swollen ankles, those hobbled legs
and skin like wax paper colored by the quitting
of his liver—

and he quit that broken body broken by booze
on the seventh day of October
just a few days after the cold rain had finally begun to fall

Harley said he was there when Joe collapsed
so he waved down a cop
who brought the ambulance to take him along river Clark Fork
away from the streets he slept on
to at least have the dignity of departure
washed and laid out on soft fabric and plush drugs

his sea of blood leading slowly to that stillness—

the dark October clouds outside the window—
Joe knew he was drinking down death
but he honored certain codes
and though proud of hustling, insisted no cussing
during business hours because (he told me once)
there might be kids around

the local paper would call him transient and
be done with him

this local poet says fuck that, his name was Cock-Eyed Joe
and I hope he finds peace beyond
because there is none here

—William Skink

  1. JC

    Thanks for the post and poem, liz. I did part of the walk around the courthouse with Joe and some of his friends on the day of his memorial. Another in a long line of sad days for the “invisible”.

    I don’t know why you waste time with “wulfy.” He’s got his facts all wrong, again as usual. He falsely accuses one from the encampment with getting an 11 year old drunk, when what allegedly happened was someone not affiliated with the camp got drunk off-site and brought the kid in late at night, as he thought it was a convenient place to find a place to pass out. Guilt by association seems to be a favorite of his. And as with his attack and pronunciation of guilt on Julian Assange–even before all the evidence against Manning has been cross-examined–he is willing to forget the notion of innocent until proven guilty. Basically, he’s been acting more and more overtly fascistic, like the loon he is.

    As to no Mayors or policemen paying the price of their actions, there are lawsuits all over the nation right now suing them with a myriad of constitutional and legal violations from first amendment rights to police brutality. There are DA’s and CA’s investigating criminal actions. Justice takes time, something wulfy has no patience with. Much better to stomp your foot and demand results NOW NOW NOW!!!

    And accomplishments? Movements take time to build and gel. If he can’t see anything on the national scene, then it’s because he can’t see past his blinders. The conversation in this country has shifted dramatically over the last three months, and not because of traditional political hackery. Hundreds of people in Missoula are organizing and participating in everything from labor/occupier alliances to helping with the Move to Amend campaign in the state, to prodding the city and county to get their act together and start providing adequate resources for the houseless, mentally ill and addicted, instead of just continually trying to disperse the problem–out of site, out of mind–throughout the community.

    OccupyMissoula is helping to organize a movement to move Mtn. Water into public hands–over half of the 40 people who attended a meeting last week to start organizing a local group to do so were occupiers. Got folks working on ideas for cooperative banks. So when all people like wulfy do is form opinions based on the horrendous reporting of the local media–centering around nothing more than a minor controversy about a few people camping on the courthouse lawn–then they’re going to miss the big picture.

    But I guess when your idea of political action is to sign a check and send it off to Jon Tester, then the immediate gratification of paying for ads going negative on Rehberg beats spending the time to build lasting relationships across your own community that will endure for decades, or understand that true political action stems from those who wish to understand and address root causes, and effect structural change, instead of hoping for a corrupt political system to right itself by electing “better” dems.

  2. Chuck

    There are some young folks that recently moved to Portland and are starting a new ebank. It’s called “Simple”. I know one of the founders and I think the kid’s hearts are in the right place. I have no idea if it will work or not but I do know the big banks are taking notice and preparing to crush them.

  3. ladybug

    Fear still rules the lives of those critical of jobless and homeless brothers and sisters. Most working Montanans are just a couple of paychecks away from living on the street. They are beginning to doubt their faith in a system they know to be corrupt. They know they could be next.

    The visuals on the courthouse lawn serves the same purpose as great art, it moves people. Is speaks the unspeakable without a word. It is truth that connects people. It also demonstrates why artists, poets and playrights are locked up first, and why some ultimately become heads of state. Many fearful workers need time to adjust to reality. After all, many have been living a lie for a very, very long time.

  4. Pete Talbot

    I second your opinion on the recent Independent piece on homelessness, liz. One of the better stories I’ve read of late.

  5. Pogo Possum

    I did a quick Google search of the words Occupy Wall Street Poop and came up with 33,100,000 hits. I then Googled Occupy Missoula Poop and came up with 555,000 hits.

    I find it interesting that the Tianniman Square type visual that people will remember years after the OWS movement has faded may well be the image of a guy pooping on a police car. Years after the great Last Stand Battle of the Porta Potty has faded, the Occupy Missoula legacy image may simply be a bunch of people pooping in the bushes.

  6. bocephus elijah otis III

    Happy holidays to everyone from the Occupy Missoula Encampment Working Group!

    We’re pleased to stand in solidarity with Missoula Cultural Council in regards to the up-
    coming First Night Event. We look forward to an evening of holiday cheer, outreach and
    education for our fellow citizens about local and national issues. We also encourage all
    artists and like-minded citizens to join us by contributing art to this First Night Event.
    We’re also planning a public discussion concerning the Missoula County Commission-
    ers’ rejection of multiple invitations to join us in our meetings with the Missoula Cultural
    Council Wednesday the 21st.

    The Occupy Missoula Encampment retains a positive outlook despite the removal by
    county workers of a disabled homeless veteran’s tent at 5:30am on the 21st, under the
    pretext that it was “abandoned property,” as well as the calculated removal of the porta-
    potty the same afternoon, in order to create a public health issue. The Commissioners
    also saw fit to request that porta-potty providers not “get involved,” and our attempts to
    secure another porta-potty have been unsuccessful for that reason.

    We continue to remain hopeful, despite today’s actions by the Sherrif, once again at-
    tempting to confiscate a disabled veteran’s tent under the premise of its being aban-
    doned. We would like to remind the Commissioners that the tents are a form of Political
    Protest, protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United Staes of

    In the holiday spirit of goodwill and peace, we are asking the County Comminssioners to
    let us enjoy Christmas without engaging the police, without threats of arrest before we
    have a public forum next week.

  7. Seems to me that it would have been a smart thing for the county to have a port-a-potty out there available for all the walking and not drinking-and-driving public participating in 1st Night Missoula.

    But hey – what do I know?

    • Pogo Possum

      I have been to 1st Night festivities many times and between the numerous 1st Night participating restaurants, art galleries, bars stores and museums that have restroom facilities I have never seen the need for a porta potty on the Court House lawn.

      The Occupy group is making a very strategic error by refusing to give up the Court House lawn for a few days to accomodate the 1st Night activities. Even my friends who originally sympathized with the Occupy Missoula participants are saying they are getting tired of the rude and sometimes childish behavior being demonstrated in the past few weeks.

  8. Ingemar Johansson

    Seems approperiate.

    I despise communism. There, I said it. In all its masquerading forms.

    Hiding behind the iron curtain of Russia, behind the velvet curtains in Hollywood, behind the silk vestments of Jeremiah Wright/James Cone’s Liberation TheoMarxism, hidden behind the fern-infused schemes of Green Redistribution ripoffs and scientific fraud, behind the Western Europe folding chair collapse, behind the academic indoctrination farms of plastic ivy and behind the Workers Party “union” scams and corruption.

    I hate what the Cooper Union crowd, Cloward Piven tactics, UNO, Midwest Academy, New Party hippies in tweed and patches cabal have poured into our free market engine in order to bring it to a crashing, burning, downward spiraling end.

    I hate that they did it by fraud, hoax, disguise, trickery, deceit, …abject cowardice. They didn’t try to persuade or convince us…they have tried to hide, disguise, mask what they were doing under the guise and pretense that it was “do gooderism”.

    I hate small c communism as much or more than its capitalized brethren, because at least the latter had the integrity to be honest about their intentions for world domination, totalitarian graft, fascist corruption, murder, torture and rape.

    Sort of like an entire nation run by OWS reprobates.

    Communism destroys everything in its path. Hollywood fell in love with it…and got caught with its hand in the cookie jar…and invented “McCarthyism” to make sure NOBODY ever caught them again…then they went back to stealing all the cookies.

    They are anti-patriotism, in all ways, all the time.

    In fact, they have tried to make patriotism…uncool. Being a traitor is cool, being pro-America is not.

    Face it…every academic, every Hollywood hedonist, every SEIU union stooge, every propaganda machine minion…is more pro-Marxism than they are pro-American.

    I despise every element of that treason. There, I said it.

    And, the Inversion Narrative…that tries to twist that truth into a pretzel…and turn it on its head…is the biggest part of the treason…the largest element of the scheme.

    Now, onto Obama. Do I think he’s a Marxist? I would say no…if you eliminated virtually ALL of the people he cleaved to for the first 45 years of his conscious life…and replaced them with a single, solitary person of influence who was not a Marxist.

    Frank Marshall Davis, his grandfather, his father, his mother, the radical professors in college, Don Warden, the Cooper Union crowd, the New Party, Van Jones, Bill Ayers, the Midwest Academy, George Soros, the MSNBC crowd, Jeremiah Wright, ….if you can convince me that NONE of that “took” and he spent every waking moment with Rashid Khalidi, Ali Abuminah, Edward Said…and came out of it an America loving, Israel loving centrist…you will win the “Clarence Darrow” award of the century.

    I hate communism. And all the Marxist gunk being thrown into our free market engine to destroy it. And how it tramples our Constitution. And intentionally lies to us through our own information stream.

    Let them come out from behind the shadows. Let them cease their lies and deceit and let’s call for a vote on what we want this country to be.

    Because currently our choice is to be loyal to a creeping deceit or treasonous to a the greatest system in the history of mankind. And that…is no choice at all.

    • lizard19

      it’s not healthy to drink before noon.

    • Patriot4ShizzleMyNizzle

      “Face it…every academic, every Hollywood hedonist, every SEIU union stooge, every propaganda machine minion…is more pro-Marxism than they are pro-American.”

      Hey retard… I’m an academic, and I think I’m a better American than you. Your b.s. rant is offensive and moronic. “every academic […] is more pro-Marxism than they are pro-American”!??! I was born in this country. I am from a blue collar background. I went to public school in a big city. I worked my way through college. I shopped for Christmas presents with the rest of the real Americans today (and I wished they were made in America the whole time) and I drove my car to do it. Tonight I will eat grown-in-America meat while I watch football (who are all, by the way, the kind of union-member Marxists you so despise, numbnuts). And the entire time, I was thinking about how people like you are destroying the traditions of this fine country, which are firmly ground in Jeffersonian dissent. Our founding fathers would’ve ridiculed a pathetic hate-monger like you and pointed out that you are a sheep in wolf’s clothing. Merry Christmas.

    • mr benson

      Enjoyed that, Swede. Merry Christmas!

    • JC

      If you’re going to plagiarize, you might as well leave a link. Other than that, I would’ve thought maybe you’d come up with something creative on the topic… guess it’s too much work.

  9. Pete Talbot

    I appreciate your honesty on where you stand politically, Ingy, not that it’s a great surprise. You should note, however, that it wasn’t the left that brought our economy to its “crashing, burning, downward spiraling end,” but the so-called free marketeers. By ridding the system of any sort of regulation, bundled sub-prime mortgages and worthless credit default swap derivatives were allowed to flourish (that is until it all came apart, bringing the world economy to its knees).

    Finally, if Obama is a Marxist, that would make me, well … is there anything to the left of a Marxist? And I’m really pretty much a free enterprise sort of guy.

    • Ingemar Johansson

      “Ridding regulations”? What ’bout the Community Re-Investment act? What ’bout holding a gun to lenders heads and saying either you loan to jobless Joe and Joann or we’re pulling the trigger?

      How ’bout to big to fail? How ’bout saving some banks and letting others twist in the wind?

      That’s free market. BS.

  10. ladybug


    I simply love your contradictions and spirit. Honestly. It indicates to me that you care as an individual struggling, like many of the rest of us, to make sense of the systemic terror raining down upon us all.

    What sort of economic system we have depends upon what sort of socio-political system we have, and what remains of individual creativity and thought.

    I stand firmly in suport of many libertarian principles, as opposed to reliance on authoritarian, or state, solutions to common human problems.

    Is that what you are trying to express? Or, is America, the state, most important to you? I think there is a clear choice between the two, which we all must make, in order to survive the systemic forces being applied to remaining free-thinkers everywhere.

    Merry Christmas.

  11. Ingemar Johansson

    Simply, I want to be left alone.

    Free from liars, thieves and scoundrels.

  12. Ingemar Johansson

    Here’s a Christmas present you should put on your list.

    Great review.

    “Fernandez-Morera has written the “must read” book of the decade for anyone considering an unrestricted donation to almost any major American university. The author, an academic like Paul Hollander, is a brave soul, willing to risk being ostrasized by the entire radical-left contingent of American academia, in order to expose the degree to which the Church of Karl Marx has become established on American campuses. Quoting from the writings of marxist academics themselves, he makes the case that the university is a place where free and open discussion is welcome only if it attacks free markets and private property, where it is more acceptable to be a Marxist than it is to be a Republican, and where Hayek’s prescient 1944 work on socialism, Road to Serfdom, is virtually unknown, even though read widely in many former marxist states in Eastern Europe. It is also essential reading for parents with pre-college children who are planning to spend over the next few years, a hundred thousand dollars or so on a unversity degree in either the social sciences or the humanities , in the mistaken belief that something of value is being purchased.”

    Let me guess? You’re a social science professor?

  13. Steve W

    My friend Dennis Holt, formerly of Missoula, posted this a few days ago on his facebook page for the 100th anniversary of the birth of poet Kenneth Patchen.

    Eve of St. Agony or The Middleclass Was Sitting on Its Fat

    Man-dirt and stomachs that the sea unloads; rockets
    of quick lice crawling inland, planting their damn flags,
    putting their malethings in any hole that will stand still,
    yapping bloody murder while they slice off each other’s heads,
    spewing themselves around, priesting, whoring, lording
    it over little guys, messing their pants, writing gush-notes
    to their grandmas, wanting somebody to do something pronto,
    wanting the good thing right now and the bad stuff for the other boy.
    Gullet, praise God for the gut with the patented zipper;
    sing loud for the lads who sell ice boxes on the burning deck.
    Dear reader, gentle reader, dainty little reader, this is
    the way we go round the milktrucks and seamusic, Sike’s trap and Meg’s rib,
    the wobbly sparrow with two strikes on the bible, behave
    Alfred, your pokus is out; I used to collect old ladies,
    pickling them in brine and painting mustaches on their bellies,
    later I went in for stripteasing before Save Democracy Clubs;
    when the joint was raided we were all caught with our pants down.
    But I will say this: I like butter on both sides of my bread
    and my sister can rape a Hun any time she’s a mind to,
    or the Yellow Peril for that matter; Hector, your papa’s in the lobby.
    The old days were different; the ball scores meant something then,
    two pill in the side pocket and two bits says so; he got up slow see,
    shook the water out of his hair, wam, tell me that ain’t a sweet left hand;
    I told her what to do and we did it, Jesus I said, is your name McCoy?
    Maybe it was the beer or because she was only sixteen but I got hoarse
    just thinking about her; married a john who travels in cotton underwear.
    Now you take today; I don’t want it. Wessex, who was that with I saw you lady?
    Tony gave all his dough to the church; Lizzie believed in feeding her own face;
    and that’s why you’ll never meet a worm who isn’t an antichrist, my friend,
    I mean when you get down to a brass tack you’ll find some sucker sitting on it.
    Whereas. Muckle’s whip and Jessie’s rod, boyo, it sure looks black
    in the gut of this particular whale. Hilda, is that a .38 in your handbag?

    Ghosts in packs like dogs grinning at ghosts
    Pocketless thieves in a city that never sleeps
    Chains clank, warders curse, this world is stark mad

    Hey! Fatty, don’t look now but that’s a Revolution breathing down your neck.

  14. mr benson

    “Hey! Fatty”


  15. Steve W

    Better take it up with Kenneth Patchen. Except he’s dead. So good luck with that, Senor Benson.

  1. 1 An April Feast Of Poetry « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] The Politics of Poop and Transients […]

  2. 2 Liz’s Weekly Poetry Series: Anticipating April | 4&20 blackbirds

    […] The Politics of Poop and Transients […]

  3. 3 152 Poetry Posts to Celebrate April, National Poetry Month | 4&20 blackbirds

    […] The Politics of Poop and Transients […]

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