They sleep silently, mouths wide open, on the steps in front of each church. They give off an odor that is representative of their daily activities- rummaging through trashcans and trudging through the gutters. Tattoos on their arms of crosses and past lovers show passersby that at one point, there were consistent beliefs and people in their lives. Their frustrated looks and bruised exterior cause the people who pass by to voluntarily look away from them.”
In Beris Vaynshteyn’s free-verse poem, “People Who Talk to Themselves,” he describes the appearance of those who are homeless or spend their days in the streets of the city. Also, he clues readers in to how these people interact with their external environment. Vaynshteyn provides his audience with a light description of the homeless city dwellers, not providing enough details to give us a clear picture. After re-reading this poem a number of times and translating it into more approachable language, it becomes easier to truly see a picture of this group of people in one’s mind. Their anger and frustration is apparent in the description of their skin and facial expression. They seem practically helpless since they lack the ability to keep up the hair beneath their torn hats and their facial hair. In this poem, Vaynshteyn utilizes a voice that does not establish the urgency of the homeless peoples’ issue; one can say that the subject of the poem is even romanticized. Perhaps, he wants to suggest to his readers that homeless people are not an anomaly in the city setting and that they are just another facet that makes up the culture of the modern metropole. By approaching modernist poetry with a less creative perspective, it is possible to extract the ideas about metropolitan society that poets wanted to portray.
Vaynshteyn, Beris. “People Who Talk to Themselves.” American Yiddish Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology. Ed. Benjamin Harshav. Berkeley: University of California, 1986. 657. Print.