Poetry from the Streets

The blood-soaked pillow/ of a homeless man who used/ concrete streets for his bed/ died in the night./ I didn’t know you my Precious Friend,/ but I’ll carry on the flame/ in honor of your life./ You did not live in vain./ May I carve the name/ of this unknown Poet/ in the Book of Life.

Blood of the Homeless

by Robin Merfeld

The blood-soaked pillow
of a homeless man who used
concrete streets for his bed
died in the night.

I didn’t know you my Precious Friend,
but I’ll carry on the flame
in honor of your life.
You did not live in vain.

May I carve the name
of this unknown Poet
in the Book of Life.
You will be known as my
eternal brother,
forever more.

 

I AM HERE
by Wilma Brown

Being homeless is not a good feeling.
It is tiring, confusing, and sometimes
it makes you just not care for yourself;
I know at times I don’t.
I am tired, sleepy, and hungry.
I know you care,
about me.
I am homeless.
But where are you?
You say, “Let me help you.”
So here I am standing right
In Your FACE.
“To My Friend Kin”

 

 

The Nature of Things
by Henry Whitmore

The geese fly in a group with a leader.
They must have a leader — this is nature.
If the leader gets shot the others lose their way.
They do not know where to go because they
have not made this trip before.
The lead goose knows the way.
Martin Luther King, Malcom X, JFK—took the lead
to help the people. They were a symbol, a purpose,
to help the people to a necessary destiny—better living.
When they were killed, the people disassembled
like the geese. They lost hope, direction —
they became depressed, discombobulated.
I say what if you grew up like I did.
I loved Martin Luther King, Malcom X, and JFK.
I just froze when they were killed.
My forward reach, my mind expansion, gone.
I lost my direction like the geese.
There’s a deep down depression.
I don’t want to revision this concept of a better way.
I could not put the same energy, trust, faith into it.

 

 

I Love This Place
by Robin Merfeld

I finally walked through the right door.
I have walked through a lot of doors that
closed and made me want to give up.
It’s all about not giving up on yourself.
I had given up on myself and now everything
is falling into place, like a miracle.
My caseworker has great listening ears.

When I was on the street, no hope for me.
I didn’t care if I lived or died.
It truly has been good for me from day one
to be at St. May’s Center.
I’m going to be here until the last day of
the Winter Shelter, unless they find me
housing before then.
Now I have every confidence
in achieving my goals.

 

 

Silence
by John Castillo

Like the silent falling of a single raindrop
becoming and multiplying into a raging force
that will eventually move great objects:
all our hopes and dreams
become focused with that
power to accomplish great things.

 

 

The Wheelchair Jogger
by Claire J. Baker

On a dusty track in total
sunlight, wearing sky-blue
warm-up suit and running shoes,
low in her chair, head bent,
lips tightened, stunted arms
pulling hard, slowly she rolls
around the track, counting
one by one the laps.

Young college sprinters
gazelle beyond her snail pace
like wind. Yet they realize
how hard she pulls.
Runners who look back
(as if to wish her a good run)
tend to lighten her arms
and their own legs.

 

 

My Journey with Mother Teresa
by Judy Joy Jones

Mother Teresa
opened my heart
to God Most High

With golden wings
upon my feet
i sailed thru the sky
following a saint
wherever she did lead

Mother Teresa
cradled the poor
on earths shores
helping them
die with great dignity

When no screams
echo in the night
from babies
dying of
hunger and fright
my journey
will be through

Mother Teresa
opened my heart
to God Most High

A blazing flame
of divine love was she
the saint who lived and died
for the poorest of the poor
Amen

 

 

In Berkeley
by Claire J. Baker

Anthropologists study
street people, find them
humane, kindly, humble —
a dog in lap, parrot on a
shoulder, a young man
sleeping, curled like a baby.
A raggedy baseball cap
silvered with small coins.

Passing poets wonder:
Is it unlawful to be human?
But lawful to be inhumane?

 

 

Juke Box Bonner, Blues Musician, Ghetto Poet
(1932-1978)
by Claire J. Baker

“It don’t take too much”
when you ain’t got nothing
to keep you on your feet.

Not booked enough to make it,
not bold enough to fake it
I go to work in a bloody
Houston chicken plant
processing chicken parts..
My heart goes numb.
I’ve only got one heart
and just two thumbs.

Working the line,
I can’t afford to flee.
But won’t let chickens
make a “chicken” out of me.

Lord, O Lord, there are true
falses and false trues,
I answered the call
to follow the “blues.”
Didn’t live long.
But did what I longed to do.
How ’bout you?

(From Street Spirit article, “The Blues and Social Justice”)

“A Need for Advocacy.” Guitar Whitfield took this photo of a homeless man in Oakland. “I want everyone to have a decent life in America,” Guitar said. “People are running around hungry and homeless. People need to help one another.” His photo is part of “On Our Way Home,” an inspiring exhibit on homelessness in Oakland by formerly homeless artists at St. Mary’s Center.

“A Need for Advocacy.” Guitar Whitfield took this photo of a homeless man in Oakland. “I want everyone to have a decent life in America,” Guitar said. “People are running around hungry and homeless. People need to help one another.” His photo from “On Our Way Home,” an exhibit on homelessness in Oakland by formerly homeless artists at St. Mary’s Center.

 

LOSERS
by Tiziana Soverino

Here’s to all those individuals
who bring other people down,
who think themselves superior,
who look down on others,
claiming they are better.
Where does their bitterness come from?
Were they conceived out of hatred,
rape and bitterness, in the brutalisation
of the supreme, ultimate act of love?
Or were they neglected by their parents,
perhaps being raised by a mother
who lacked the slightest spark of maternal instinct,
or by an absent father, devoted to alcoholism
and other, more interesting, pursuits?
Were they bullied as children,
or simply lack emotional intelligence,
and so took refuge in a workaholic existence,
believing that was a quick fix,
a magic wand which solves all the problems,
and fills all those gaps?
Do they fill up their loneliness with
laptops, meetings, books?
Aren’t they deluded?
Do they get a high
out of the insults, pain and sorrow,
they inflict on others?
How can they sleep at night?
Or look at themselves in the mirror
and think they are better
than anyone else?
No title, award, or earthly success
entitles somebody
to humiliate others,
to bring them down,
to fail to recognise
the soul, the potential
in the other individual,
or how we are all connected.
They may be rich and famous,
but those people
are the biggest losers of all.

 

 

Gentle Little Pushes
by Ed Coletti

Lying still
in the garden

warfare —
the notion
absurd.

Give everyone
a garden
breeze and swing

especially
executive
owners

of gardens and swings.
Lead them outside,
give them gentle

little pushes
start them all
moving —

forgetting all else,
being alone.

 

 

Stoplight
by Lark Omura

On the stage of a concrete median, the kid,
eyes brown and jumpy, struggles to rise.
Pushes up slow off his milk crate stool
Legs shaky, stride twisted.
Left leg chasing the right,
chasing the right,
in a slow drag.

Up ahead, an arm out the window of a silver car
holds a plastic to-go container,
in our breath of a red light
we, the drivers, watch
his walk, a battle against time.
On his cardboard sign
MARINE/ Disabled in IRAQ
pops in white strokes
against grainy brown.

The kid moves back to his crate on the median
and the driver of the silver car continues to speak
to him, gestures an idea into the air.
The kids eyes catch in that direction
then he cracks a smile
which makes him look even younger,
and more human in the way we are used to.

The light turns green.

 

 

Hearing the Blues
by Julia Vinograd

A blues harp bends the broken-hearted hurtin’ horizon
between both hands, trembling.
There’s a long distance call between lips coming close
for a kiss.
A naked woman lies down on a honky-tonk piano
long hair dangling,
the keys beat at her breasts
but only the piano moans, not her.
A blues fiddle so fast it hopscotches over hell
and kiss my smoke.
Blues plants pain like a field of corn
and sets us up as scarecrows
but we only scare each other.
Blues so open
I can take a tropical canoe ride in my own ear
and stretch out like a sunbathing lizard.
A blues saxophone blows what rain wants to be
when it grows up.
Blues calls for lost keys,
lost socks, lost cigarettes, lost love.
Blues has empty pockets full of shooting stars
as wars go on overhead, ignored.
Blues mourns for being born,
then pushes the sky aside
as sparks fly upwards
and we follow.

 

 

Shepherd
by Ed Coletti

This guy 30 or so
in a red plaid mackinaw
pulls up curbside
in the rain by the rescue mission.
Someone on a decrepit bicycle
yells, “Hey Speedy!”
Everyone in the old gray Dodge gapes
but the passing cyclist aims
elsewhere while the deliberate driver
gets out to open his trunk,
grabs an aging umbrella, covers as much
of his dependent trio as he can
and calmly herds them
into lunch.

Ever find yourself
wondering who has the right
to live, whose lives are worth
something, why so many are mortified by
the death of a cat?
Why my demented 93-year-old parents continue
to live?

Then there’s this thirty-year-old
who from this perspective,
still a messy kid,
is caring for three profoundly
damaged young men his own
age who
without him would
drown, freeze,
disappear —
entirely.

 

 

Who Is Donald Trump
by Julia Vinograd

Of course, he’s not just Donald Trump
he’s the last trump. There’s a sense of recognition
while we wait for him to take a battered old horn
from a thousand dollar suit, shout “you’re fired” at us
and then blow the world down.
He whips the 4 horsemen over our heads
and everything he says came from our minds to him
like coins to a wishing well.
He’s the last trump,
the graves will open
and the dead will vote for him.

Writing for the Street Spirit: My 17 Year Journey

Writing for Street Spirit has awakened in me a sense of responsibility toward others. Street Spirit is a way for people silenced by big money and big media to have a voice.

Animal Friends: A Saving Grace for Homeless People

“I wrapped her in my jacket and promised I’d never let anybody hurt her again. And that’s my promise to her for the rest of her life. In my mind she’s a little angel that saved me as much as I saved her.”

A Testament to Street Spirit’s Justice Journalism

The game was rigged against the poor, but I will always relish the fact that Street Spirit took on the Oakland mayor and city council for their perverse assault on homeless recyclers. For me, that was hallowed ground. I will never regret the fact that we did not surrender that ground.

Tragic Death of Oakland Tenant Mary Jesus

Being evicted felt like the end of her life. As a disabled woman, she saw nothing ahead but a destitute life on the streets. She told a friend, “If I’m evicted tomorrow, I have no choice but to kill myself. I have no resources, no savings, no money, and nowhere to go.”

They Left Him to Die Like a Tramp on the Street

Life is sacred. It is not just an economic statistic when someone suffers and dies on the streets of our nation. It is some mother’s son, or daughter. It is a human being made in the image of God. It is a desecration of the sacred when that life is torn down.

Joy in the Midst of Sorrow in Santa Maria Orphanage

This amazing priest not only housed 300 orphaned children from the streets of Mexico City, but he also took care of 20 homeless elders in his own house and started a home for children dying of AIDS. Father Norman also ran a soup kitchen that fed many people in the village.