The Poetry of the People

Mother Mary Ann Wright/ Saint of the Poor/ slept sitting up all night/ so she could feel/ the suffering/ of the homeless/ all over earth’s shores/ hearing God’s call/ to take blankets/ food and clothes/ to the homeless/ on the streets/ in the darkest nights/ Mary Ann Wright did go

Mary Ann Wright — Saint of the Poor

by Judy Joy Jones

Mother Mary Ann Wright

Saint of the Poor

slept sitting up all night

so she could feel

the suffering

of the homeless

all over earth’s shores


Hearing God’s call

to take blankets

food and clothes

to the homeless

on the streets

in the darkest nights

Mary Ann Wright did go


How many souls

she fed and clothed

the world will never know

but her love for the poor

lives on through eternity

and her saint’s halo

forever glows


Mother Mary Ann Wright

Saint of the Poor

sheltering the homeless

in her loving arms

she was the mother

they had never known

sent by God alone



Upcountry from Delano

Farm Workers March to Sacramento

by Thanasis Maskaleris

The offenses of Mammon are legion

but greatest is the offense against the vine —

this is to offend, to wound the heart of both Dionysos and Christ.


Here, under the banners and the burned faces,

I see the simple strength of Zapata

and the complex mind of revolution —

the undying vine protesting in human form.


But beyond this march of wrath that Cesar Chavez leads,

I discern only the immense sleep of the nation’s conscience —

the dreams of self-righteousness that manufacture bombs

and break up the demonstrations of life…



Desperate & Daring

by Claire J. Baker

In rough California hills

an orange tent glares

among chaparral,

native grasses,

wild roses, sage —


an exclamation point

at the end of someone’s

year-long fruitless search

for affordable housing,

a job?



Orange Nylon

by Claire J. Baker

Someone lives

in our neighborhood,

orange nylon tent

nearly hidden

in cemetery canyon.

(I won’t tell!)


A real person

falling back

for awhile

before, hopefully

as fate would have it

moving forward?

A mural of Mother Mary Ann Wright of Oakland enshrines her as a local heroine.


Shopping Carts

by Joan Clair

It is an art

to keep one’s life together

in a shopping cart,

to be a consumer in reverse

shopping, storeless, in the universe.


It is an art

to live within the means and meaning

of a shopping cart,

outside the many rooms

of those who, overconsumed,

throw marketing excess out in rage,

screaming at the lack of meaning

stuffing their lives with waste

standing in the way of simply being.


I am amazed at some homeless elders’

carts, blankets and clothes in neat folds,

layers of grace in intricate space,

an orderly humbleness

so out of step with sanctified numbness

that one could fall apart outraged

at those who order homelessness away—

those who could discover on their knees

in prayer and praise a reason to believe

before essentials bare as these

of those who live with dignity.


Organized disgrace,

crimes of legalized hate

may take the carts of the homeless away

but cannot separate them from god

whose home is in their heart

with or without a shopping cart.




by Mary Rudge

I desperately look for your face

among the homeless

and hungry.

I cannot find you.

I will feed this one,

I will take this one home,

in your name.


When I said I was searching for you

they asked: which ward do you

want to see?

What Multiple Sclerosis looks like?

What it looks like to be dying?

Have you seen AIDS? Schizophrenia?




turns like a flower toward the sun

toward love

like you, delicate around the mouth

with violet shadows,

everywhere I look.


Do people slip through the slats in

picket fences, the slats in hospital

beds? Become lost in trees?

Has anyone fallen past the Pacific Rim?


Is any poem I hold

strong enough for a lifeline?

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.