The October 2006 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Federal Housing Cuts to Blame for Homelessness

Judge Halts OHA Evictions

The Crime of Pushing a Cart

Giving Love to a Homeless Dog

Clergy Denounce Police Sweeps of Homeless

St. Mary's on the Move for Justice

Oaxaca's Radical Teachers

Berkeley Is Hard on the Homeless

Giant Puppets Stand Tall for Justice

Poor Leonard: On History

October Poetry of the Streets


September 2006

July 2006

June 2006

May 2006

April 2006

March 2006

February 2006

January 2006

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.

October Poetry of the Streets

Integrating the Bank
by Joan Clair

He stands outside looking unhappy.
He comes inside looking displeased.
Who is he? A guard of security.

I stand outside looking unhappy.
I come inside looking displeased.
Who am I? A human being.

She stands outside looking buoyantly,
joyfully, ecstatically happy.
She comes inside looking buoyantly,
joyfully, ecstatically pleased.
Who is she? A dog.

We complete our transaction
which is not robbery, discourtesy,
anarchy; and leave the bank
joined together by a leash.

Who are we?
Two threatening, raging, righteous,
ridiculous animal integrationists!

by Joan Clair

Eleven p.m. -- empty streets but for
these men pushing shopping carts
in front of them. During the day,
dark desolation may be theirs,
but at night their isolation glares.
If I'm scared traveling by car,
among few cars, late driving home;
how must these solitaries feel
traveling alone without the grace
of destination or a place.

For A Street-Lost Son
by Claire J. Baker

We hear you are still
of this world, but go
where we cannot follow,
ask what we cannot answer,
need what we cannot provide.

We drive the streets
as if to meet you and take you home.
We can't help it, son:
We gave you birth.

Address Unknown
by Mary Meriam

The moon rose yellow
on Valentine's night,
over lake, over woods

where eagles sit
in leafless trees,
open their wings

down to the waves,
where the sick and unworthy
sit lonely, forsaken,

forlorn in their rooms.
The moon rose yellow
on Valentine's night,

over cold sleepy woods,
red heart of the dark
forsaken sky.

by Mary Meriam

The end of the world is the beginning of life,
so you say,
removing my teacup from the table.

I jump, float, land in the universe
you so sweetly
conceived, and we're outcasts together

in your realm of delicious communion.
Other than this,
I long for your rounded mountains

and the bony valley of your ribcage
sheltering a heart
pounding eagerly for me.

alone: a senryu sequence
by Mary Meriam

not the faintest clue
how to find a job, I skim
the yellow pages

do I start calling?
no confidence, no contacts
no, I'm too afraid

there must be something
else I can think to make me
forget I'm alone

what is a living?
there is no one to tell me
I get lousy jobs

each job goes nowhere
and kills me in a new way
what did I expect?

you can't make it here
your girlfriend's a prostitute
you drive a taxi

you rent a u-haul
you get out of the city
collapse on the grass

are you still living?
clean wealthy people's houses
watch them have parties

you're not invited
you must depend on strangers
they will torture you

Good Saint Mary's
by Michael Creedon

You can poke me in the eye,
you can punch me in the nose --
the blood just goes where the blood all goes.
But you won't do it cuz you're civilized.
You're not too loving towards me --
I remind you what you're not.
Say, I like those shiny shoes you got.

Good Saint Mary's where I sleep in the winter.
Best lunch in town even if you're a sinner.

I used to drink loud wine;
I guess Night Train was my favorite.
Don't drink much now cuz of pancreatitis.
But these are good people
coffee and donuts in the morning
and no prayer meeting that puts you to snoring.
When I get my million dollars,
know what I'm gonna do?
Give it all to St. Mary's for the good they do.

by Michael Creedon

In the mornings
when the cold kicks you out of the doorways
on the concrete street,
even before the shelters kick you out
(and God bless the shelters)
it's time to scrounge for a ragged cigarette
and think about a cup of steaming coffee
and here you are, wearing all your clothes,
and shivering so hard you can barely talk.
You find a place to pee (most of them are illegal)
and smile through trembling lips and say,
"Mornin' bro."

You're famous, you know, you're in the papers
every day, somewhere or other,
but you're not "Johnny Depp,"
who is probably a very cool guy.
You're "homeless,"
and you are definitely a real cold guy.

by Michael Creedon

They hauled me to the hospital --
emergency of course --
when my leg swelled up like a watermelon
and I couldn't stand the pain
and it smelled like something had died
and was decomposing where I lay
on the bus stop bench.
The police called the paramedics
and no one would sit near me.
In the hospital they used a scalpel
and pus squirted out all over the clean room.
The doc told me I had septic-something
and I asked him what that was, and he
said "cellulitis" and I might die
and I dozed off for 4 days.

When I started feeling better
while they drained the pus out
and I could eat without a tube,
I realized this was the most comfortable life
I'd had in many a year, with morphine
dripping in, and clean nurses in white dresses
feeding me 3 times a day, with juice and snacks.
When I finally had to leave I was back
to my old self, but healthy and heavier,
and with only 3 hours to find a shelter or
a doorway to sleep that night.

trickle down lesson plan
by Randy Fingland

the cages provided
are lined with economic

that facilitate a view upon,
but not access to
the good life charlie brown

as advertised
in the equalities
of classless preschool

children experience
the need

for fresh milk
all mothers

going to ground
by Randy Fingland

the sack grows cold
reflects back a chill
instead of a glow

from the moist air:
even in summer
sleeping bag snoozing

ain't like having
one's own bed
in a safe neighborhood

Closed Doors
by Chris Trian

I needed a church bad.
I have recently moved
from Berkeley to San Francisco,
the City of Saint Francis,
with hundreds of Catholic churches.
We live out by the beach,
but you'd think I could find just ONE
open all hours.
No dice.
Finally I found one!
Saint Cecilia Church.
It has a nice little chapel
always open but chockful of people.
I'm used to talking to God alone.
To writing poems with the stubs
of burning white candles
instead of fingers.
When the candles burn down
the poem is finished.

But why are so many other churches
Deirdre stopped going as a child
when she beat her fists bloody against
the door of some church on Sunday.
That was an anomaly
in a more innocent time.
I figure today it's to keep
the hordes of homeless
from seeking shelter from the cold.
But the cold is everywhere.
You can feel it rising up from the tiles,
in the spaces between people,
in this little chapel.

It's like on an airplane
when people are afraid
to sit next to each other.
Are they hijackers or perverts?
Might one of them
break the silence,
drawn like a suit of armor
around the passengers?
In the chapel, the doors are closed
between the people.
Maybe the chapel
might get hijacked.
People mumble their prayers
as though God might touch back,
put his hand on their knee,
engage in conversation.

There are few homeless in churches
and none on airplanes.
The government has been hijacked.
Ex-presidents seem in "custody."
Politicians pay lip service to change,
but then approve "The Patriot Act,"
ninety-six to four!
Courage has been hijacked.
The heart is homeless
and not let into
the bosom of the house of
people, God and prayer.
The doors of people's mouths
are closed to protest.
Has Reality been hijacked?
The news, our lives, seem like movies.
We stand by helpless
watching doors close
just for the sake of closing.
Last year I closed the door on someone,
stupidly, and I so want it to open.

We have forgotten
that we must live as we are Saved;
We must burst open the doors
of the Bastille of our hearts
in this French Revolution
of the Soul.
Masters of deception
behind curtains made of iron
have made fear the new paradigm.
When everyone is homeless,
only the homeless
will have homes,
locked out of churches and airplanes,
but passing messages of revolution
between the still open doors
of compassion,
the only church open 24 hours.

White Rose
by Claire J. Baker

Chris, your
"cathedral of death"
is so beautiful
we hope to enter
its golden doors
as light as air
inhale musk
old mahogany
ah, stained windows
a blue altar
three candles burning
a single white rose
in a see-thru vase


[For Chris Trian's poem, "The Hungry Streets," in Street Spirit.]

Treasures of a Tweaker
by Joy Bright McCorkle

Yesterday a schizophrenic tweaker dropped by.
In his arms he carried a big trash can of Fortenight lily plants.
He's clean and sober now, but the behavior remains.
He couldn't sit still, he couldn't just talk.

He busied himself tidying up my deck.
He moved the boards with nails standing up awaiting my innocent feet.
He stacked the remains from the demolition of my yard.
He moved the plants, eyeing the placement with an artist's eye.

With the cunning of an old-time recycler, he shopped in my trash.
There he found a "Lily of the Nile" plant with a root ball two feet wide.
He dragged it back after emptying the weeds he had pulled.
With improvised tools, he chopped the roots into manageable segments.
He worked in my tiny yard three hours.

He dragged in a rose bush denuded of leaves, buds, or flowers.
With no planter available, he planted it in a back pack
found in the dumpster. Into the dusk he moved without pause.
He twitched; he tromped, stopping to think every so often.

I smiled, I watched, I thought of Tom Sawyer whitewashing a fence.
He finished at dark, satisfied with his creation.
My deck now resembles a tropical garden.
Planters created from pieces of concrete left by the demolition,
full now with plants purloined from the trash.

I smiled. Last week I spent $150 on planters, petunias, and pansies.
Now, in three hours the transformation complete,
the dirt swept and vacuumed, my outdoor world was transformed.

I heard he was seen at midnight surfing he alleys of Santa Cruz
looking for treasures and pilfering plants. Old habits are hard to break.

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

E-mail: Spirit

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