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MICHAEL ALEXANDER indicates and authorizes the previous existence of events, people and places. Plenty of written words are consumed in public, but their public production is rare. We usually write at home, in private, or in places like libraries and classrooms, designated as “literate.” Cafes can be “literate.” A subway is not “literate.” The street is not “literate.” Graffiti, also a kind of public writing, is offensive because it is so territorial and aggressive. The act of writing can be more meaningful than what is produced. In a parking lot near several churches that offer shelter to the homeless, I found ripped-up OK soda posters and pizza parlor coupons. I pieced together the fragments until I could read: “for a while. freeman does not ever tell anyone where he is going and how long he is going to be there and how long he is going.” and a ring of women and one, another. to talk, to of no degree.” sweetyou anthat’s that is from.” “clothing went from February 1979, The apt. to the cleaners, apt to the rear. car to the farm. off FM 916. Signif. Texas to Houston Tues. my mother. home.mine.” “pay. pay. pay. pay.” These transcriptions don’t do justice to the look of the writing that covers all blank space. Five or six styles of handwriting are used, one between another’s two lines, frantic sometimes, and crowded. Never scrawled or illegible, but like personal notes or a list, quickly written and familiar only to the writer’s eyes. Some looks as if it was written by a young person, some by an older person. There are different colors of ink: black, blue, red. This writing isn’t informing or communicating and it isn’t the poetry of the streets. It’s unintelligible language unelevated by a cult of art. The product is not a message at all, not intended for our eyes, for no one’s eyes. It is writing without meaning. Writing without voice. The writing of people who have no voice. The writing of people who do not write, who are not supposed to know how to write. But they do. Daily. And all around us. What do people without identification and families do? They write. Without income, disenfranchised, they write. They find paper and pen and a flat surface, and they write. They don’t even have homes, or the street is their home, they sleep in nests or shelters, and they write. They have a task, something to do. They’re writing their world. Those familiar with the homeless are probably not surprised at all, but I am fascinated by any impulse to write, for what people write is sometimes not as important as the simple, obvious fact that they do. Nora, the other woman, should not be writing but they are. In this determination to remain inside the realm of social possibility is the meaning of the acts of their writing. In a history of the effects of resurgent literate practices in 11thand 12th-century Europe, Brian Stock writes that in literate societies, “the presentation of self is less of a subjectively determined performance and more of an objectified pattern within articulated norms.” That is, individuals are only recognized when they can be “read,” either when they are written about or when they themselves write. They will show the products of their writing, or they will let themselves be seen writing. The homeless live their lives on public paths but are transparent to most people. Unless they practice this civilized and recognizably human activity called writing, they’d be invisible. Walking, breathing, talking is not enough. So they write. In the desire for permanence, not in the written word but in the act of writing, I recognize the homeless. I recognize, I read that desire to be valued, to be regarded as human, and to put some drag on eyes slipping by. Continued from p. 24 a waste of time and a risk to their jobs to report violations to the TDA. The coalition also charged that the TDA not only does not keep accurate records, as required by law, but it has admitted it created false numbers for its reports on users of Compound 1080, a very dangerous poison. WELFARE REFORM. Senator Judith Zaffirini, Laredo Democrat and Senate Health and Human Services chair, . put together a coalition of Democrats and Republicans to pass a welfare reform bill that is marginally more progressive than that passed by the House, but one of the interesting votes was on an amendment that would consolidate 23 separate job training programs in a Texas Department of Workforce Development. The Senate voted 20-11 not to table a move by David Sibley, a Waco Republican, to let the governor directly appoint the agency’s head. The vote was a slap at organized labor, which has fought hard for the Texas Employment Commission to come up with the nominee, whom the governor could accept or reject. V BINDING ABATEMENTS. Local governments would have the key to the state Treasury under a bill approved by the Senate on a voice vote April 27. The bill would refund state sales taxes to cover 80 percent of the local school property taxes of large industries that qualify for other city or county property tax abatements. The state Comptroller estimated S.B. 345 by Buster Brown, R-Lake Jackson, which the Senate approved on April 27, would cost the state more than $50 million a year when fully operative. The Center for Public Policy Priorities noted that tax abatements were designed to bolster local economies in times of economic distress and quoted the 1989 Select Committee on Tax Equity, which concluded that abatements “should not be allowed to degenerate into tax giveaways when economic conditions improve.” V VEGGIE RIGHTS. Vegetables ended up with more rights in the courthouse than farmworkers. and consumers after both chambers of the Legislature approved the “veggie libel” bill that would allow farmers to sue for false disparagement of produce. The bill, which the Senate passed to the governor on a 29-2 vote, was designed to muzzle concerns about matters such as pesticides used on crops and hormones used to stimulate production. At least the House put the burden on the plaintiff to prove that the disparaging statement ‘aer treat requiring the defendant to prove that it was true, as the original version required. So eat your vegetables and not a peep about that broccoli, George. El] THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23 r ,,IPM04.1..WOOt