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.

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.