February Poetry of the Streets

The wizards in old tales/ used to bury their hearts in secret places./ And unless you dug up the heart and / destroyed it,/ they were invulnerable and heartless./ Part of my heart is buried in People’s Park.

Julia Vinograd, Berkeley's poet of the street, talks to Osha Neumann, artist and attorney, in front of the renowned People's Park mural Neumann helped create. Lydia Gans photo



by Julia Vinograd

The wizards in old tales

used to bury their hearts in secret places.

And unless you dug up the heart and

destroyed it,

they were invulnerable and heartless.

Part of my heart is buried in People’s Park.

Not all of it, not even the largest part.

Other places, people and I’m no wizard

so I keep some of it myself.

Part of my heart is buried in People’s Park.

Leave it alone.

It’s the part that will never be reasonable,

never grow up and know better

and do worse.

It’s young;

breathing is sweet to it, and wild and scary.

It remembers meeting soldiers’ bayonets

with daffodils.

It remembers tear gas drifting

over swing sets.

It will always be young.

Leave it alone.

I go to the park sometimes to talk to it.

Not often. Time passes

and it doesn’t always recognize me.

But it tells me there are many hearts

buried with it.

All young, all proud of what they made

and fought for. Do not disturb them.

Do not build on them.

Do not explain that times have changed.

Do not tell them it’s for their own good.

They’ve heard that before.

They will not believe you.

There are many hearts buried in

People’s Park and a part of my own as well.

Oh, leave them alone.


The Flowering of the Colorful

by Mary Rudge

It was tie-dye on the peace march,

tie-dye in the park

tie-dye “in the sky with diamonds”

singing through the dark

when the Beatles were imagining

and Deadheads came to town

and in Berkeley Wavy Gravy

was more king than clown —

was mayor more than

ice cream flavor — every pantry full

of sharing in abundance

and no need for choosing “dull”


Love-Ins, Be-Ins, fields and meadows

it was a new beginning

of a garden on the sidewalks

in a world where peace was winning,

leaving money and technology

and other things-gone-wrong

for all colors celebrated

and poetry, dance and song

let free-wheeling color-wheel

the drab majority still mystify

with Tree-of-Life true values,

and tie-dye multiply.


For an era flowered here

telling of youth compelled to try

peace, love;

the psyche’s history holds it,

not to fade or to deny.

Together, colors permanent,

no time change can defy,

with tie-dye still a rainbow sign

of dreams that never die.


Remembering People’s Park

by Julia Vinograd

I remember trading a poetry book for

a potted plant from a street vendor

and bringing it to the park

only to be told it was a house plant,

it wouldn’t grow outside,

didn’t I know anything?  No, I didn’t.

I think it was a poinsettia. I put it

down and pretended it wasn’t mine.

Planting surged around me like waves.

Bare backs heaving small trees

into big holes

to shouted orders and many hands

grabbing at once. Spades and picks,

flying earth and shaken petals.

I didn’t know anything

but I didn’t go away.

Then tear gas and time. Wings of war.

The cyclone fence, storms in the street

and James Rector dead.

Each spring the flowers are as young

as they were that morning

when I didn’t know anything

but I didn’t go away.

Teargas dispersed the crowd at Dwight Way and Telegraph a few minutes before the Alameda County deputies came down the street with their shotguns. Kathryn Bigelow photo. See more photos at the People’s Park website: www.peoplespark.org


The Universe’s Ancient Light

by Arthur Fonseca

gazing through the field of view

projected from the jewel within your heart

your organism exudes emotion

in liquid form of imperceptible density

shifting focus, color and intensity.


from the central flower grows

whorls and flows

changing form and perspective

moving patterns in fluctuation

feelings become memories in gradation

floating remnants of past incarnations


streaming with the strength of feeling

weightless… soothing… invisible… healing

the colors of remembered dreams

charged with the force of spirit,

an astral song, yet we barely hear it


in this pool of felt memory we are floating

surrounded by our solid light coating

where the mundane obscures the sublime

we are bound to matter, blind to dreamtime



with that charged aura

as you channel power from the flora

from the flexibility of your field

using nature as your shield

with compassion for all your relations

creating love with inspiration


Become a conduit for the starry night

for it is the universe’s ancient light

that shines through your will.


Do Unto Others

by George Wynn

Some people

stay the same

no matter how

much they pray


Catholics with

suspicious eyes

walk out of St. Patrick’s

down Mission Street

giving homeless people

looks of disdain


Some po’ folks get angry

some cover their eyes

to hide their pain.


How Sad He Must Be

by George Wynn

When the flashbacks come

he goes off by himself

to Muir Woods

to see images he alone

must watch for endless

moments of torture and

when he comes home

his friends who have

not been to the war

laugh and talk but

he does not


For All the Danny Boys

by Claire J. Baker

I imagined I was a baritone

singing “Danny Boy” on a small

rosy stage in Shangri-La.

Lambs minced down from green

pastures, stood listening,

their little bells stilled

like a held breath.


They seemed to sense that Danny,

their much-beloved shepherd,

was off to war — that whatever

the season in Shangri-La

Danny was not coming back

until every war had ended.


Master Sergeant on the Street

by George Wynn

“One third of the nation is

ill-housed, ill-clothed, and ill-fed.”

— Franklin Delano Roosevelt


Master Sergeant on the street

tells me I hear

myself breathing

how much longer

is it really what I want?


I barely survive

it angers me

things should have

been better at 65


It’s a damn shame

no one’s in charge of

making things better

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