4 poems by Richard Porter, Nonprofit Poet Laureate of the Milky Way Galaxy

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Hi everyone. Today is the third day of the Lunar New Year, and the return of Spring, and according to traditions, one is supposed to avoid stress and arguments, as whatever one does and feels on these days sets the tone for the rest of the year. So I’ve just been stuffing my face with hard cider and dark chocolate and avoiding the news.

So, instead of writing a serious post today—several serious ones are coming—I had asked Richard Porter, our Nonprofit Poet Laureate of the Milky Way Galaxy, to write some poems that capture the essence of our sector. Richard, you may recall, won the first-ever Nonprofit Poetry Contest. His poem, replicated below, with its heartbreaking earnestness and yearning, captured the hearts of the judges. He follows it with three more poems. 

Our field is full of talented individuals, including many artists. Thanks, Richard and other artists, for illuminating our world. 

“Richard vs. the Line-Item Budget”

(1st Place Winner of the Nonprofit Poetry Contest 2016)

Please

do not make me beg
for $$$ to buy a laminator.

I have suffered the 1001 indignities of social work
and all I want
is a nice A4 document
pressed between 2 silky-soft sheets of
ethylene-vinyl acetate.

Fresh pressed
I want it to warm my hands.

I want our funders to esteem us
based upon the quality
of our printed promotional materials.

I want laminating sheets that are as
extremely durable and stress resistant

as I would like to be.

“Database”

i dream of a database
pure
with
algorithms like strong hands
to knead
shifting clouds of ones & zeroes

infallible database
accurate to the decimal point
navigable
& never buggy

database with up to the second
case notes

maintained by
three
full time/well paid
admins
with access to good coffee
doing
data entry
surveys
ceaseless internal audits

*

though
i know
technology
can only supplement
and never replace the finest lo-fi tools of our trade:

eye contact
the listening ear
coffee & aspirin

a diamond infinity of patience

“Volunteer Appreciation”

The theme for this year’s volunteer party
Was going to be
“Our Volunteers Are Outta This World:
The Cosmic Bowling Experience”

Imagine

Two hours
Three frames
Discount group rate on shoe rentals
Pizza
Lasers
Fog
Banners (Confetti?)
Team building

But then
Twenty five out of twenty five volunteers surveyed
Circled they “strongly disagree” with the idea of going bowling

So we’re doing a potluck dessert thing
Low key

I will keep my ball and shoes in the trunk
Just in case
Anyone changes their mind

“House Calls”

Note from Richard: These are real experiences from my days as a case manager. Some details have been altered to respect the confidentiality of my former clients.

this is a fire hazard

cramped apartment
a collection of
floor to ceiling cookbooks
I walk uncomfortably through a tight maze
of grinning Rachael Rays

cramped apartment
soot grey walls
boom box Aerosmith
man and teenage son sit side by side on couch
watching me through slit eyes
arms crossed
chain smoking
it is my job to tell them to clean their kitchen
because the ants

cramped apartment
man with intimidating muscles
offers to let me pet his ball python
“He’s calm. He just ate three frozen mice.”
I say no thanks
snake smells stale, sinister

cramped apartment
guy lying on sagged mattress
walrus mustache
feeding sour cream and cheddar potato chips
to a rabbit named Mr. Bun Bun

cramped apartment
trying to fill out paperwork with client
she’s watching the end of Nutty Professor 2
and won’t stop laughing
I give up and join her in watching the rest of the movie
okay
it’s a pretty funny movie

***

Richard works for Volunteer Chore Services of Snohomish County. “Our program matches volunteers to disabled, low-income seniors for housework and transportation services. This allows seniors to age in place in their community.”

***

Make Mondays suck a little less. Get a notice each Monday morning when a new post arrives. Subscribe to NWB by scrolling to the top right of this page (maybe scroll down a little) and enter in your email address (If you’re on the phone, it may be at the bottom). Also, join the NWB Facebook community for daily hilarity.

Donate, or give a grant, to Vu’s organizationRainier Valley Corps, which has the mission of bringing more leaders of color into the nonprofit sector and getting diverse communities to work together to address systemic issues.

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  • These are wonderful. Thank you.

  • Dawn Butterfield

    I agree; these are wonderful, Richard! As a former case manager for twenty-some-odd years, I identify with “House Calls”, but now, as a manager trying to pull data for reports, I find that “Database” really resonates. Only poetry can capture the exquisite agony of coaching (nagging) staff about “good” data when they’d rather just help people.

  • Fabulous! Thank you!

  • Cheryl Slavin

    Thank you for these wonderful poems! Will there be another poetry contest?

  • Ann Tydeman-Solomon

    Thank you for these wonderful poems, Richard and Vu. So far, they are the best part of this new year.

  • Cindy Oberg-Hauser

    Enormous gratitude for giving voice to my unattainable dream after Salsa royally screwed up (and still hasn’t completely fixed) my database with a couple of very buggy “upgrades” a few months ago…

  • Richard Porter, you have a gift. Thank you for these amazing poems!!!!

  • Katie Graf

    Just what I needed today.

  • S NV Nonprofit Info Ctr

    Much, much better than I could ever come up with.