Poets Ask: “Why War?”

Poetry reveals the seen and unseen, hidden casualties of U.S. wars at home and overseas. “America zips down prayers/ and buttons up wars/ with battalions of/ impoverished youngsters/ duped into dying for dreams./ America indoctrinates/ then shames us/ for believing her spin./ 'Opportunity,' she sings,/ hiding our dead from view.”


by Claire J. Baker

Am drawn to the painting

Absence” —

four hooded Afghani women,

before high mountains

and a ghostly cloud.


The grandmother cradles a dead

baby, snow-white. Its hand

strains toward heaven:


surely the white mountain-cloud

will envelop the baby, lift it

away from war, away from death.


Back From Iraq

by George Wynn

City buses roar by

drenching his Rimbaud

book of verses

taxis honk

expelling their curses

wet men bet and argue

over blitz chess


His ear fills up with cries

of “Why my son?”

a village mother pleading

with the man in command:

“What’s he done?”


Weary of pounding

San Francisco streets

where has he got to

go to get a job?

It’s cold out here!

is he going to be homeless

month after month?


He wants to run away

do something bold

maybe even reenlist

for Afghanistan


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


Coming Home to Tickets

by George Wynn

Young bearded man

in wheelchair brushes teeth

in front of his books

cds, dvds on display over

white blanket near Market Street.


Stocky cop approaches

points to blanket, barks

“Gotta ticket you.”


Tapping toothbrush

on wheelchair bearded

man stares, “Why?”

“Illegal sales.”


“Give a soldier a break.”

“Cannot do,” cop says

handing him ticket,

eying another vendor

across the street.


Bearded man shakes

head over and over.

“Damn 6 years in

the Marines. 6 years

ready to die for Uncle Sam.”


Signs of Our Time

by Delaine Jones

A sign of the time,

a saying that is coined,

But oh how time and

Change have come.


A cell phone in every hand

people hurrying along

sidewalks now are houses

where people live, where they sleep,

out of garbage cans they eat.


People beautifully dressed

to the nines.

When evening comes,

they have no home

where they can dine.


Children are no longer cherished

as our future.

They are denied all essential resources.

Human Kind is no longer considered,

But Wall Street, the big guns

and money are worshiped.

“ABSENCE.” Painting by Jane Norling



Back to the

Vietnam War

by Claire J. Baker

My brother, Karl,

an engineer, stayed safe,

didn’t kill anybody.

His military service:


make precision bullets

& gun barrels.

Later, homeless-at-heart,

he drank his liver to death.



by Dee Allen

You sold yourself down the river

You sold your kind down the river

Brown-nose, kiss ass to impress


The bittersweet smell of success


You bow & scrape for the master

You jump through hoops for master

How much? Does it matter?

How high you climb

The proverbial (corporate) ladder


Why give up what’s true to you?

Why become what you despise?

Why give in & compete?

Why compromise?

Why compromise?


Why give up what’s true to you?

Why embrace the company’s lies?

Why give in & compete?

Why compromise?

Why compromise?


Hot Day in June

by George Wynn

Seagulls flying around

UN Plaza sprinklers

Children with happy

faces clapping hands

then bouncing on the ground

it’s a hot day in June


Up Market Street

the order’s been given

2 men in blue with

rolled-up sleeves

and low-slung gun belts

have made things clear:

Pack up and move on!


Four men with tough

half-century faces load up

their sleeping bag gear

The men in blue stare

at them with icebox vibes


Four men against the wall with

downcast faces stare at the ground

as if in a trance remembering a

similar shakedown earlier in the year


After they walk away with their

quality of life tickets

the men in blue smile and touch

their gun belts as if adding another

notch to their gun belt. They have

busted four poor men. They are

somebody. They are macho men



you can tell

by Michael Leslie

you can tell by the way

we silently pass

on the street, looking away

ignoring presence


unless intrigued by a hat,

shoes, scarves or beauty

that we distrust one another

& we’re gonna make it


completely on our own

except for our private

cast of characters

forever on cell phones.

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A Life Consecrated to Compassion and Justice

On the bleak streets of the Tenderloin, a sister took a stand against inhumanity. Her solidarity was inspired by the beatitudes and consecrated to the poor.

The Invisible Natural Cathedral of People’s Park

Builders, please go away. Allow the beauty of an Invisible Natural Cathedral to remain, a living shrine of open space that gives refuge to all people.

Street Spirit Interview with Sister Bernie Galvin

This atrocity was happening in a very wealthy city. It was happening right under our noses. It was very visible. And there was not the united voice of the faith community speaking out. That was the spark of Religious Witness. From that moment, I knew what I had to do.

Interview with Sister Bernie Galvin, Part Two

“What’s forming in my mind is Jesus in the temple when he became angry at the unjust and very exclusive systems of society. That is the very reason that there are the poor and the marginalized. It is not enough just to provide food, clothing and housing.”

‘Such Is the Magic and Spirit of People’s Park’

The mayor has no understanding of the awful defeat the loss of People’s Park would be. No comprehension of the cost in lives and the sacrifices people have made for the Park’s ideals. So many still find it a refuge in a country needing a political and spiritual overhaul.

I Remember Who I Am

“And Now Where?” Lithograph by Rockwell Kent

By and by, I calm down. I meditate. I pray. It is a beautiful day. The sun is setting. I weave my way toward the spot where I sleep, where nobody knows where to find me. I look to the stars, and say my prayers to the God who believes in Me.