The January 2006 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Religious Witness with Homeless People

Memorial for Homeless Deaths in East Bay

Remember Rosa Parks: Justice in Public Transit

Justice is Pushed to Back of Bus

Big Brother Watches the Poor

Homeless Woman Works to Survive

Let Justice Roll: Raise the Miserly Minimum Wage

Richmond Courts Unfair to Poor

War Profiteer Parties Hearty

Poets Against the War Machine

Poems for the Poorman

Poems in Spirit of St. Francis

Songs of Our Shared Humanity

Psychotic Breaks

How to Deal with Pain and Fear


November 2005

October 2005

September 2005

August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005





Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

Poems for the Poorman

by Florence Miller

Calling out
her children's names --
old woman in the shelter


Midnight --
asleep on the subway
a carved obsidian face


In the library
a homeless man
reading Proust


Gushing hydrant --
the homeless woman
scrubbing jeans


by this sundial
a homeless woman raped

by Claire J. Baker

When the
search for
their souls
may they find
out searching
for them.

by Chris Trian

Everything I do seems wrong.
The times are not
out of joint,
but I can't keep inhaling
this hypocrisy.

The Right thinks I'm left
The Left thinks I'm right.
God and the Devil
are both offended
at my blasphemy.
I want to fly
but everyone I know
is taking a chainsaw
to my wings.
It's a sign of the times.

I have property mortgages,
but I feel dead.
The people on the streets
have little or nothing,
and feel dead.
No one is alive,
especially not in Washington.
Dead people are killing
a dying world
for no reason.

I give money to the "homeless."
I don't care
what they use it for.
I hope it's
to warm the cold deadness
from their souls.
But it's not my call.
I just need to touch Someone.
If death touches death
does it produce life?

I write poems
for the Street Spirit.
But I have no idea
what it's like out there.
Do I have to?
Must we know
before we can touch?
Ask Michelangelo.
Did God know Adam
before those fingers collided,
like freight trains in heaven?
Did touch make man, make God?

We are not separate
from anything.
An empty beer can
sings to a Mercedes Benz
on the intersection
of Desire and Despair.
The lines of touch
criss-cross like spiders' webs.
They should be played
like the strings of cellos.
There should be music
between rich and poor,
damned and saved,
alive and dead.
And we should ride on the notes
as though they were
flying tigers,
their stripes signaling to each other.
Their jaws shut,
their claws sheathed,
because unlike us
they do not eat
their own.

Frequent Flier Miles
by Michael Creedon

Street people hurry along
Telegraph Avenue ahead of the
following sea into the Tsunami
where a million woebegone chinchillas
on treadmills chant "Hey Jude"
to the Patron Saint of Lost Causes--
Frequent Flier Miles
Don't count for much
For these folks.

I watch it all go by
Sipping green tea with Alison,
transformed crack whore
as I am a rejuvenated speed dummy,
from our table outside the Med,
across the street from Moe's.
We've both quit smoking. Her diet is
A success and she's a knockout.
I'm cleaned up and I can walk again.
But Frequent Flier Miles
Don't count for much
For either one of us

poverty act extended
by Randy Fingland

in leprous letters
the stakes
are spelled out

no one
with the power
to do anything

about it cares

leadership vacuum
by Randy Fingland

these plush days
don't flush out
in a benefactor's eyes
any recognition of
the have-not quality
certain lives
by circumstance
get delivered

in this our world

whose top echelon
is defended
by fear's trickle down
from the inside out
the riddles unkept
promises answer with
only tomorrow
can be better

the need pyramid
by Randy Fingland

to close quarters
in this section of disasterville
as numbers living in the outdoors
increase to disastrous proportions pres-
surizing compassion into an ever
greater demand for wide-
spread safe shelter
with enough to
eat for

rent party
by Randy Fingland

thursday's crowd
is usually quiet
unless it's the 30th
or the 31st

the jug's tilt passes
around more often
the cook brings out
from the watery ice chest
anything that hasn't been
eaten yet like a motley warm
macaroni comfort from the
bottom of the long-hung
baskets in temperature
suspect water alongside
a long-open bag of
preserved zucchini, dried
in honey

the music keeps
driving intensity in closer
& sure enough
sufficient quota of interest
to guarantee another
month in this dump
oh hallelujah:

could be I can hole-up
here for the winter dude
since from what I hear
there's no plan to
demolish the building itself
until next spring

hurricane malicious
by Randy Fingland

the parade begins
where the thoughts line up
to protect
rich stomach linings

this is ecological
there's little need
to alter the diet
from too much
to slimmer

alan paton wrote:
if all are poor,
it is not bad
to be poor.

but kept poor
so that others
may stay rich?

until freedom
of speech
raises enough demand
for healthcare
in the neighborhoods
side by side

to each existence
full of
and justice for all

under thumb
by Randy Fingland

well, OK, it's moist here
in fact it's a torrential
downpour some would say
a veritable cloudburst
with penetrating winds

many stores hoist their
awnings to leave winter
trees & vending machines
as shelter for a pilgrim
from the elements
heavy out of this sky's
bruised palm

by Ralph Dranow

Hey, man, dig this scene. These
Two dudes were sitting across from me
At St. Anthony's.
One of them started shaking salt
Over his food
Like it was going out of style.
So I said, just wanting to be friendly,
"It's no wonder so many
African-American men suffer from
High blood pressure.
Have you ever noticed
How much salt we use?
It's like committing suicide."
This guy's friend got this
Real angry look on his face.
He growled, "You have no right
To talk to a brother like that."
I said, "Look, I didn't mean any harm.
I was just stating a fact."
This dude, his face was all tight,
Like a fist
And fire was coming out of his eyes.
"You shouldn't diss a brother that way.
We need to stick together
Instead of running each other down.
You're doing the man's work."
It was like he socked me in the stomach.
"Stay cool, man," I told myself.
I said, "Look, brother,
I'm sorry you took it that way
Because it wasn't my intent."
He snapped, "My ears don't lie.
I know what I heard."
His fists were clenched,
Like he was ready to start swinging.
I thought "This shit is crazy."
So I said, "Look, man, let it go.
It's not a big deal."
But he was still jawing away at me,
like a dog worrying a bone.
I said once more,
"Hey, just let it go, man.
It's not worth all this fuss."
Finally he calmed down a little.
I got up from the table
And said, "Peace, brother.
I hope both of you have a good day."
And I meant it.
It blows my mind to think that one of us
Could have killed the other
Over some petty shit like salt.

No Money for the Poor Man
by Husayn Sayfuddiyn

They think Poor People don't need money
But they wouldn't be poor if they had it.
Prosperity without cash is a bad fit.
They can't dream of their Dick and Jane House
Kids and Car
It's now just for millionaires due to inflation
That's if you are not susceptible to disinformation
Like a Poor Man needs anything but a cash implementation
For social services that he can't buy
Like house, food and heat
Wherever Money is the key
and answers all Whys
Money's the universal alibi
And why, they say
If we gave money to the poor
we wouldn't be rich today
So we'll let it trickle down for a subsistence
that's increase resistant
Have to keep our social order you see
A Poor Man with Money means Equality.
All highfalutin titled middle men
With their hand's in Poor People's pockets
Concealed by distracting second fiddlemen
Agents of the Gov.
With no one standing by to say
Chill! That's enough!
So the Poor
Can get a spot on a floor
A can of spam and ten-day-old bread you know
But nowhere on earth can a Poor Man get dough?
A ticket for standing still before you drop dead
Trying to find nickels and dimes with receding hope
Hope's scope reduced to single digits
Or Moral Midgets on a hangman's rope
Poor People don't need money?
But that's why they're robbing banks and you
Because with the creation of your fantasyland
Living has become a business too!
Poor People don't have Money
Because the Banking Regime
has Privatized our Money Machine.

The Timeless People
by Husayn Sayfuddiyn

What do you see? What memories?
In the poor's haggard, time worn faces
In the wild eyes seeking friendly places
Safe from the demand of dollar bills that can't be earned
Framed in tentative smiles that still
Mock their hardship's doleful refrain
The vagabonds walk in unmeasured steps
In a circle of desperate hope
Their woeful sighs lost in the errant, timeless night
doomed to haunt the urban jungle's neon nights
Seeking food and shelter and finding blight
The specters of menace in dark, shadowed streets
The timeless walk without rest or sleep
Living without Time to mark the careless hours
In the shadows of the mocking Ivory Towers
Just night and day mark their goalless trek
Their unmarked courses seeking places to rest
Perhaps in an empty lot's rusting wreck
To awake and perhaps hoping not to
Knowing that Time they've hoped to, has an end too.

Dios le bendiga
by Jan Steckel

Dios le bendiga, Doctora,
God bless you, Doctor, for curing my baby of syphilis.
Can you cure me, too?
I am broken and need to be fixed.
When I was twelve I pretended to be sick
and stayed home from church.
In my vanity I plaited my hair like shiny black snakes
and put on my sister's hibiscus-flowered dress.
My uncle came by drunk from a lost cock fight.
He raped me in the kitchen where I had made
Cactus candy with my mother and sisters.
Blood ran down my leg like prickly pear juice.
Because of that, I do not enjoy the act of sex.
I lie like a stone beneath my husband,
so that he had to go to prostitutes,
which is how my baby got this disease from me.
So you see that it is all my fault.
I want to be cured of my coldness,
to be a good wife to my husband,
and not cause all this misery.
Thank you for the telephone number, Doctora,
Dios le bendiga.

by Husayn Sayfuddiyn

Talking about Religion is how you swing
While it's the Usurers' song you sing
During Mass when you must pass
The Cash
Whether Rich or Poor
The Poor can return later
In a line at the back door.
The hidden entrance for Les Invisibles
The Exit of Les Miserables
The Back Doors to Life
But for the homeless there are no doors,
just the doorless open spaces,
with his desperate heartbeat as his fife
And hunger as his wife
drifting on silken wisps of hope before
they open The Back Door
With lines around the block
Not knowing whether they'll see you
Before it's four o'clock
Back Doors for rich and poor
Burglars and thief
Adulterers and lovers
The harbingers of grief
The suicidal graves
Wherein you seek relief
In the veil of oblivion
Where all front doors are locked
For the keyless, the can't peeless
After has crowed the cock
The welcome Sun you greet
Only God turns up the heat
On your Wintry concrete beat
Along the front doorless street
Hoping that you score
At a Back Door for the Poor

by Husayn Sayfuddiyn

Hear on
all those that have an ear
Let me tell you what I hear and fear
Can you hear the Veil of sound bites
The cloak-and-dagger missions
In Self Acquitting Special Commissions
Investigations with omissions of the Secret Facts
Can you not discern
that it's all a vaudeville act?
Can you hear the silent cries from the killing fields
above your microwaving Swanson snack?
The computers calculating the atomic yields
produced by a First Strike Attack
Hear on
In the gales of sound and fury mimicking Peace
Which no man sees but perhaps those deceased
And can Hear no more the scribbling pen
And whatever Kilroy had scrawled upon
Silently speaks from then
From the dust they're now adorned
So Hear on
The Siren voices that weave
Your Heartless Reality
In the blood of those dying from exclusion
On the face of the ravaged earth
wherein whose Cause you seek Solution?
Hear on
the dying Amazon and the weeping seas
Have you ever paused and asked yourself
What does this mean to me?
The Earth Mother's now dissonant cacophony?

1515 Webster St,#303
Oakland, CA 94612Phone: (510) 238-8080, ext. 303

E-mail: Spirit

© 2002-2005 STREET SPIRIT. All rights reserved.

Published by American Friends Service Committee

Editor : Terry Messman

Web Design: Robert Mills, Web Weaver CyberB Solutions