The Radiant Poetry of Mary Rudge

When she asks spare change/ but you pass by/ her only response is “God bless you”/ and a broken-toothed smile./ She shows you how hearts really break,/ can you feel your own?/ She lets you see a whole country with/ a government full of broken promises.

One Nation Under God

by Mary Rudge

With broken eyeglasses and broken veins

she stands on the corner showing things

have a kaleidoscopic other view.


When she asks spare change

but you pass by

her only response is “God bless you”

and a broken-toothed smile.

She shows you how hearts really break,

can you feel your own?

She lets you see a whole country with

a government full of broken promises.




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?




by Mary Rudge

I am sitting beside an empty

styrofoam cup.

How can I fill it up?


In front of the

Mattress Discount Store

With no place to sleep.


In front of the grocery, the café,

without food to eat.


In front of the Clothing Store,

no coat,

shirt and pants threadbare


In front of the social club,

with no one to care.


In front of the church

with hope and a prayer —


In front of the Bank and the

Real Estate building

where can I live?

Put out on the street because

I have nothing to give.

Not able to thrive. Barely alive.

Without what society is looking for.

Yet for hours I am working,

holding this cup.

In all kinds of weather.

One of this kind of

the working poor.

In this city are the blessed

with cups always full.

Can the poor and the stressed

be left so pitiful?


With only an empty

styrofoam cup,

still poor, hungry, homeless

if coins fill it up?


What  better solution,

soulful and practical?

For those who have now

empty cups, empty cups.


Poets Mary Rudge (left) and Claire Baker join to celebrate the publication of their book of poetry entitled Poems from Street Spirit. Lydia Gans photo



by Mary Rudge

I woke to rain and bitter cold.

Hard ground was my bed.

And so soon was my name inscribed

On the wall of homeless dead.



Your Mirror Image, God

by Mary Rudge

The violence of ignoring you

shatters your soul

I see the pieces on the sidewalk


A Classic For All Ages

by Mary Rudge

Seven-year-old Diana and I

cry over Gogol’s The Overcoat

on channel 9 now

cold Russia        old poor man

even without subtitles

his face we both know.

It was cold in our house last winter

we had coats from the thrift shop

at night we slept in one bed

we piled on all the coats.

The cold old man is going to die

we saw that face once in our mirror,

and cry.



Little Child in Your Land

by Mary Rudge

Little child in your land

bombs bursting in air.

We watch TVs, check our remote,

to see your crumbling skyline, be sure

that our flag is still there

in your streets, around your home.


In your streets, around your home,

bombs burst in air, we put them there.

We have so many bombs to spare,

and crave your oil, a major share.

Say, are you safe within our care? —

we bomb your land because we can,

kill your neighbors to show we dare,

destroy your home, pollute your air,

though vague on how to grieve

for you, or leave.


Who’s bad or good our power declares.

Vengeance is ours to decide

Let’s have no hidden weapons now,

we get ours out onto your land.

From our pockets to your skies.

In your streets your body lies.

Over carnage our flag flies,

we watch TV to see it’s there,

bombs bursting in air.


Little child, in our land,

on the sidewalks homeless lie

homeless hungry children cry,

schools are crumbling, and the poor

cannot afford health care and die.

Money sends bomb-burst in air,

who has cared for your welfare

little child in our land? We see where

over horror our flag flies.


So many years, so many wars,

so many little children die.

How can peace come to all lands

if we sing bombs burst in air

though our flag is there.

When our flag is there.

If flags fly then children die.

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.