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?

Resurrection of the Poor People’s Campaign

Rev. Barber told the activists gathered in the nation’s capital that by demonstrating in solidarity with poor people, they had become a link in the long history of people who fought for justice.

Hate Crime Laws Needed to Protect the Homeless

As homelessness becomes more visible, people living on the streets are targeted for bullying, assaults, harassment and even murders.

Life Is A Precious Gift: Mother Teresa’s House in Washington

We will never know how many huge pots of soup Jacob lifted with the sisters into trucks, to take to the homeless in the park. We will never know how many diseased bodies he fed, held and bathed, and the number of tears he dried in the early morning hours.

Mother Teresa’s Gift of Love in San Francisco

She took home with her the men who had only a few days left to live and were suffering the most, and tenderly cared for them around the clock. I am certain some of the people I was meeting were angels, whose job was to make certain no soul died alone and unloved.

My Back Pages: A Song for Miss Kay

She softly sings the soul anthem “Stand By Me.” It is a song for Miss Kay, a song for all of us. Her life, with its music and joy, followed by a downward slide into homelessness and death, tells us something deeper than words about the human condition.

My Back Pages: Kerry’s Kids, An Undying Dream

Oakland pediatrician Dr. Karen Kruger said, “Kerry’s death was so sudden and seemingly purposeless and shocking that I think there was a need for people that loved her to carry on her memory in a way that she would look down on from her cloud and be happy about.”