Song of the Tenderloin ... A Poem in Response to Bill Holland's Challenge

Song of the Tenderloin is dedicated to a friend and talented writer who wrote extraordinary prose and poetry about the homeless, their anguish, and their many talents hidden beneath layers of oppression, abuse and illness. He spent considerable time in San Francisco’s “The Tenderloin," district and came to know these people well -- both young and old. Tragically, he is no longer with us. I wanted to republish this in answer to Bill Holland’s challenge. The shadows of the Tenderloin are a world of back alleys and dumpsters, beneath windows and doors that are forever closed. I will never forget those haunted faces, and the people I met there who I still think about today.

Bill's challenge can be read by following this link:

For "Danny"

When you entered their homeland with ease and alone

they knew the young writer as one of their own.

You respected their distance yet shared in the pain

of the child from indifference that will always remain.

The longing for passage the youth never shows

as he drifts through the nightfields where his destiny knows…

The singer whose verse gently falls to the ground

where its echoes are muted by the ironweed’s sound;

When the time jester’s dance by illusion withholds

the fate of the image that the traveler unfolds;

And the mime of the teacher as his gestures portend

of the giant stone listeners and the dreams they defend.

The Tenderloin children still say your name…

those souls who lie huddled in our doorways of shame...

For they saw their reflection in the gift of your mind

when you wrote of their poetry the world left behind.

Poetry written and copyrighted by Genna East. All rights reserved.

More by this Author


billybuc profile image

billybuc 22 months ago from Olympia, WA

Genna, that is absolutely beautiful. I have tears in my eyes after reading that, and rarely do I read a hub that causes me this much emotion. My goodness, this is exquisite. Thank you for sharing this with us all, and blessings to you always.

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 22 months ago from England

Beautiful Genna! this was amazing, we forget that people have talents even though their lives have taken a tragic turn, you told it so well!

ArtDiva profile image

ArtDiva 22 months ago from Yountville, CA

"The shadows of the Tenderloin are everywhere." A sad truth, looking the other way...human behavior towards the less fortunate. A nice tribute and remembrance of your friend.

tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 22 months ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

Oh Genna, this is a wonderful tribute to your friend, so very moving and beautifully done. Voted up all the way and sharing.

annart profile image

annart 22 months ago from SW England

Absolutely beautiful. The gentle rhythm belies the problem and therefore makes it all the more poignant. Well done indeed.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 22 months ago from southern USA

Exquisite, lovely woman. Your brilliant writing truly shines here and tugs tremendously at the heart for all the downtrodden. Beautiful tribute to your dear friend.

Up ++++ tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

Peace and much love always

Genna East profile image

Genna East 22 months ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

@Billybuc Thank you, Bill. I am touched that this poem song stirred the same emotions that I felt during that time I spent with Danny in The Tenderloin. I will never forget it, or him, or those who still find themselves trapped in our “doorways of shame.”

@Nell I so agree, Nell. These unfortunates are beautiful souls with so much to share…if only more people could be understanding and reach out to them when we find them, lost and wandering.

@ArtDiva Thank you for that thoughtful comment. Yes, those shadows are everywhere, and sadly appear to be growing.

@ToBusiness Thank you so much, Jo, for visiting, for your kind thoughts and for sharing. :-)

always exploring profile image

always exploring 22 months ago from Southern Illinois

Oh Genna, this is so very beautiful. The video had me in tears, so true, lost people among us. Thank you so much for sharing this. I will share on twitter. I hope many people read this touching piece..

mckbirdbks profile image

mckbirdbks 22 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

Your words strike images of flickering gaslight on an old theater stage as Cyrano de Bergerac recites hidden from the audience….you are classic

PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 22 months ago from Dallas, Texas

You are a truly gifted poet. Your imagery and cadence sweetly tell this sorrowful story.

Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 22 months ago from Shelton

wow Genna, amazingly beautiful.. yeah you do have poetic talent..:)

Jodah profile image

Jodah 22 months ago from Queensland Australia

You are a wonderfully skilled poet Genna. Your rhyme and meter is captivating. You did a wonderful job marrying a response to Bill's challenge with your tribute to Danny. I would like to be able to do a similar thing to him, writing about the homeless.

pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 22 months ago from sunny Florida

O dear Genna, what a gorgeous piece. Tears slip down my cheek as I read. How carefully you have expressed this.

You have a rare talent.

Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

ocfireflies profile image

ocfireflies 22 months ago from North Carolina


Beautiful does not seem to come close to describing the purity and melody found in this work of art. Thank You. It takes one with a heart of gold to write such a tribute and do so with such gentleness and care. Ups/Shares for sure.



sallybea profile image

sallybea 22 months ago from Norfolk

Beautiful piece of writing plus a video which grabs you by the heart. Thank you so much for sharing this treasure.

bravewarrior profile image

bravewarrior 22 months ago from Central Florida

Genna, this is absolutely beautiful and quite moving. Simply awesome!

peachpurple profile image

peachpurple 22 months ago from Home Sweet Home

beautiful song, you can be a composer

MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 22 months ago from South Africa

I can't imagine being homeless, living completely unprotected on the streets with no idea where my next meal will come from. Personally I think death is a better option. My heart goes out to all homeless people. Beautiful, heart-touching poem!

The Frog Prince profile image

The Frog Prince 22 months ago from Arlington, TX

Excellent Genna.

Venkatachari M profile image

Venkatachari M 22 months ago from Hyderabad, India

Very awesome poetry dedicated to the homeless and helpless. It is very touching and emotional. Very great work done by you. Thanks for sharing it. Voted up and awesome.

Genna East profile image

Genna East 22 months ago from Massachusetts, USA Author


Thank you for those lovely, gracious words, dear Theresa. Your compassionate heart shines through with everything you write. :-)


Hi Ruby. This wasn’t an easy poem to write. Your thoughts, visit and sharing are always so special. Thank you.


I am grateful for that generous comment, Mike…and so creatively written. I tried to write the song in echoes, shadows, and images that people who ignore the homeless see, rather than human beings. For example, the “mime of the teacher” is the homeless individual who strides down the sidewalk, talking to himself, waving his arms in the air like don Quixote, flailing at the windmills of oppression and broken dreams. I only wish that more people could take some time to get to know who these extraordinary people truly are. I will never forget those I met in the Tenderloin.

@Peg Cole

Thank you, Peg. I wrote of their poetry , and am honored by your kind comment. :-)

Genna East profile image

Genna East 22 months ago from Massachusetts, USA Author


Your words brought a grateful smile, Frank. Thank you.


I have always liked your poetry, John; your comment and kind words mean a lot to me. Thank you.

Genna East profile image

Genna East 22 months ago from Massachusetts, USA Author


I am humbled by your lovely comments…thank you. Sending angels to you as well. :-)


Hello Kim. As you know, I am a devout fan of your poetry and creative talent; and I’m heartened to receive such wonderful and encouraging support. Thank you, and blessings to you as well, my friend.


Hello Sally and welcome. This poem did not come easily…I am grateful for your kind words. Thank you. :-)


Thank you, Shauna. Everyone has been so kind in their comments; it is moving to me as well.

AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 22 months ago from California

You write so beautifully Genna! This piece just tugs at the heart--So much heart you have!

CrisSp profile image

CrisSp 22 months ago from Sky Is The Limit Adventure

Brilliant and so very heartening piece.

Up and sharing.

Love from the sky~

Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 22 months ago from Germany

Beautiful! This is a very moving poetry. Well done!

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 22 months ago from New York

You certainly have a sensitively emotional style of expression. You say you wrote of their poetry and you did so movingly and beautifully. I have said this at other times but it is so true here, this touches the soul as we see these poor people.

Voted up, useful, awesome, and beautiful.

Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 22 months ago from North America

This is an eloquent poem that reminds me of the work of Robert Service about the Yukon. Homelessness is another sort of wilderness. I was glad to read this poem. Rated Up and more.

Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 22 months ago from Riga, Latvia

Just wonderful. Passing this on.

Genna East profile image

Genna East 22 months ago from Massachusetts, USA Author


Thank you, Peach. :-)


Thank you, Martie, for that heartfelt comment. There is spending time in that situation, knowing that you are visiting and going to leave; then there is spending time there but knowing that you will probably never leave. We can’t know that kind of pain. To us, it is unimaginable.

@TheFrog Prince

Thank you – so good to see you. :-)


I’ve enjoyed your visit and thoughtful words…thank you!

Genna East profile image

Genna East 22 months ago from Massachusetts, USA Author


Hello Audrey. Coming from one of my favorite poets, such a comment means a lot to me. Thank you. :-)


I appreciate your stopping by to read this poetry, and for leaving such a kind comment. Thank you for the vote and sharing.

@Thelma Alberts

Welcome…and thank you. This was not easy to write. These people need our help in so many ways.

Genna East profile image

Genna East 22 months ago from Massachusetts, USA Author


Thank you, Mary. You are right..we can’t help but be touched with the need to help when we see the homeless. The big issue is housing. Whether these souls suffer from addiction, which is complex in terms of nature and treatment, mental or physical disabilities, or no money or job prospects due to the economic plunge that hit many people, hard, it’s either often living in one dingy room in a rundown hotel with one bathroom for each floor of rooms, or the street which is the next stop -- and the last. I appreciate your encouraging, kind comment.

Genna East profile image

Genna East 22 months ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

@Patty Inglish

Hi Patty. I haven’t heard of Robert Service before, but I think I would enjoy his work based on your recommendation. I will do some research on this poet. Thank you, and I hope you are enjoying your week. :-)


Hello Rasma...what a lovely comment from a lovely poet. Thank you for visiting, and for sharing. :-)

AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 21 months ago from California

Just gorgeous writing Genna--came back to spread it around a bit!

Genna East profile image

Genna East 21 months ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Thank you, Audrey. Danny used to say that these people should write poetry. It is their stories that matter. But he wrote for them...and became their voice. Good to see you, my friend.

AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 19 months ago from California

Amen Genna!

RobinGrosswirth23 profile image

RobinGrosswirth23 19 months ago from New York

We should not take for granted our warm beds and safe harbor. A wonderful wordsmith are you!


Genna East profile image

Genna East 18 months ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Thank you, Robin. I still have much to learn when writing poetry, but I appreciate your kind comments. :-)

cam8510 profile image

cam8510 18 months ago from Columbus, Georgia until the end of November 2016.

A lot could be learned about these unfortunate folks if we followed the lead of the young writer and watched, listened and felt with our hearts. Beautiful job, Genna. This is a very special poem.

Genna East profile image

Genna East 18 months ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Thank you, Chris. This poem is one that is very special to me...although Danny, and the people I met and observed in the Tenderloin, deserve the credit in its inspiration.

suzettenaples profile image

suzettenaples 12 months ago from Taos, NM

Such a somber poem and you make good points. My favorite lines:

"of the child from indifference that will always remain

The longing for passage the youth never shows/as he drifts through the nightfall where his destiny knows . . ."

Really, beautiful, Genna and so observant.

Genna East profile image

Genna East 11 months ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

Forgive me for not responding earlier, but work demands cause me to take a mini-sabbatical of sorts from time to time on HP. Thank you for that very special comment, Suzette. The homeless are always with us; Danny was their voice -- among others.

Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 7 months ago from Houston, Texas

"Doorways of shame" It is shameful that anyone need be homeless in this country of ours. This poem of yours really strikes a chord and resonates. Sharing!

Genna East profile image

Genna East 7 months ago from Massachusetts, USA Author

I couldn't agree more, Peg. We are supposed to be the richest nation in the world...why do we have so many homeless? The writer I dedicated this poem to once told me that, "they are the ones who understand pain in ways we can't begin to imagine...they should be the writers, and we their readers and students." Thanks so much for that kind and understanding comment.

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