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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?

Berkeley shelter closes

The closure of the largest homeless shelter in Berkeley leaves many with nowhere to go

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.