“Outgrow the Status Quo.” Occupy poster art by Nina Montenegro.


Man in the Blue Tent

by Mary Rudge

I was never so peaceful as here
in my tent in Snow Park
demonstrating, nonviolent as
the smelt in the lake,
the moon on the water,
my body is speaking for me.
Present, occupying.
I occupy marking my place
on the lake shore
like a bookmark in text of history,
let there be help for the 99% — justice,
every cell of my body is saying: change.
I change the position my body lies in
and I can see the moon more clearly
it is pregnant with promise, and
beautiful, perpetual,
even when changing I know.
I have seen light fall on the leaves
and blossoms, the leaves sift down
in the California night to the lake,
and I wonder if bounty from the 1%
really will trickle downward.
I am sharing my small tent with the
person who told me he was homeless,
looking for work, had come from
a small town, no jobs there.
Said he was 20, wanted to work
to send money back
to his mother so his little brother
would stay in school, they were poor.
He said he’d never seen a lake like this,
one surrounded by so many buildings,
there must be jobs in all those
buildings. I hear his breath as if he
is breathing in hope in his dream.
There is no TV here. I do not think
of commercials of cars, clothes,
of WalMart floating a great ship
to our shores filled with goods made
in China.
I do not think of “The Biggest Loser,”
or of obese teens eating fast food,
or of the politicians fattened at the
pork barrel, their expense accounts
are at the country’s expense.
They are dividing the country like a pie,
the Pentagon devouring
more than half of the budget.
The moon is full, pristine
with promise, lighting the lake
in Oakland,
as if shining could show us the way.

The audacious activists of Occupy SF boldly carry out a nonviolent sit-in that shut down Wells Fargo bank.

Two Women in an Orange Tent

by Mary Rudge

They were arrested, beaten, kicked,
stripped, put into jail clothes,
some with wrists chained to cell bars,
some with tubes forced down their
throats when they fasted to resist,
let lie in their own vomit, given no
water — for carrying signs asking
for the right to vote. It was 1920 when
women won the right so
women today might use it.
It is that pain of the Suffragettes
that sustains and keeps me here —
in spite of my fear.
The Freedom Riders were taken by
hundreds to the USA’s worst prison,
a place of violence, of cruel hard
labor, that generated hate.
and they turned it all around —
nonviolence, compassion —
they won their cause. It is that vision
that keeps me here — in
spite of my fear.
they brought out the riot squads,
police dogs, billy
clubs, tear gas, against the students
on Telegraph Avenue, Berkeley,
who rallied for Free Speech.
They won and that passion sustains me.
It is that history that keeps
me here — in spite of my fear.
The students were shot and killed at
Kent State — another demonstration
for peace.
It is that wisdom, that urgency for
peace as a way that keeps me here
— in spite of my fear.

Said on the Sidewalk

by Mary Rudge

It would be equally essential
and valid and wise a cause to
sleep in the streets to protest
rape as a weapon of war, to protest
all violence against women,
violence against anyone, war-violence.
I would be equally as filled with
passion, and I would see it as an
equally important cause.
For how many years, how many years
Volunteers have plucked the grasses
between the crosses on the hillside
in Lafayette, California, where each
cross marks the death of an
American soliderwho died in Iraq.
It is valid to protest war anywhere.
Have you seen the diagram pie
showing the percent of the
national budget spent
on the Pentagon?

The Teach-In

by Mary Rudge

We know those who infiltrate —
those who love to hate —
those who agitate
with chaos for chaos sake —
a rock through a window,
a confrontation, anything to
disrupt the Occupy —
but be like Gandhi, Chavez, King —
project out your inner peace —
be like the Irish who taught under
trees and bushes when schools
were closed to their needs —
we teach, in streets and doorways,
on sidewalks and by the lake,
of peace ways we can take
for change.
We have the will and the skill
for arbitration, negotiation,
reconciliation, as we
overcome by
Occupy —

The TV Watcher

by Mary Rudge

I am not at the Occupation
but it is my dedication to see the same
TV news broadcast many times.
I watch, what are they doing now?
Will do next?
But the same scenes replay
over and over — 3 o’clock, 6 o’clock,
10 o’clock, 11 o’clock news.
I watch. Will the president speak,
the mayor act? More people come?
Like me, you have not been to the
living graveyard, lying on the street
under a sheet.
Like me, you too have not held hands
around the lake
praying for peace,
stood with a lit candle at the
BART stations at specified times
handing out leaflets about war,
so people knew —
Afghanistan, Iraq, the people
starving in Sudan for years,
the people hungry and homeless
on American  streets,
more than ten years now,
less real to our eyes than the
reality game shows we see —
in this era of spectators
who watch and know
but do not act.
You too, like me, could not be there,
but are watching for change.
Everyone may not be able to occupy
in this protest.
Still, I think there may be
that some see,
bear witness,
watch TV.

The Unemployed Artist

by Mary Rudge

The president of the art college said:
“In any given year there are
25,000 art majors in the Bay Area
and not all will get work
in design or even to teach —
some of you will wait tables and do
more menial jobs to support your art,
yet you will always be glad for
what you learned about art here.”
It is said creativity is the world’s
important resource —
I see how there can be beauty —
I am designing
in my mind this better
— more fair and just — society
even as I stand in
the unemployment line.

“Rise Up.” Occupy poster art by Imnop


The Man Watching the Sun on the Water

(One of the 99% speaks at
Lake Merritt, Oakland)

by Mary Rudge

I’ll be in debt the rest of my life
for expenses beyond what
the insurance would pay,
but I couldn’t let her die like that.
I love her. We are happy together.
Sometimes I bring the wheelchair
down to the lake.
I know there are people occupying at
the port — confronting big business
crossing the water; there are Occupy
signs reflected in the estuary.
If I came at night I could see light
from a cook fire from those who
Occupy on the other side of the lake.
They do this for people so deep in debt,
like me.
I could push to the Occupation
in Snow Park, or to the Occupation
a few blocks away at city hall.
But she is fragile,
her immune system cannot take crowds
and I am her caretaker.
Once we had two jobs and lived better.
Now I work nights while she sleeps.
Today, we are watching the sun
shine on the water,
the ducks swim — so ordinary,
but miraculous, too.
They say these ducks mate for life.
Some people aren’t like that, but I am.
Look. See the sun shine on the water?
We need light.
The light in the mind.


by Mary Rudge

I was 19 when the pepper spray
filled my throat, when the police
turned the can to my face
and aimed at my eyes.
In the hospital they said: sometimes
the retina damage is permanent.
They said damage to lungs and sinuses,
to throat membranes or other organs
may return again far in the future.
I have returned to sit here again
linked arms with the sophomores
and freshmen,
the independents, the 4.0 girls,
off-beat fraternity boys,
some psych, and law,
and social studies majors
and other students who will have
professions and start
their businesses but always be
part of the 99%.
I understand about collateral damage.
I am here because I want an education.
Yet at times I wonder if I should leave.
I talked to some who graduated
some years past but still owe debt —
some haven’t found jobs. Yet
when I write home my dad says
“Stay. You must.”  Dad says he’ll find
a second job too and send money.
I don’t know if he should,
he looks so tired.
I don’t know if he can, but if a job
is there, he’ll find it.
He says “education is the key.”
I came here to study and learn, now
I sit on the sidewalk
and Occupy.
I cannot pay the college fees.
I am $600 in debt from student loans.
I know a graduate who still has
$20,000 debt from student loans.
Been paying back for eight years
and is 32 years old
and still in debt.
I am 19
I only wanted an education.

“Decolonize Wall Street.” Occupy poster art by Ernesto Yerena, Orlando Arenas, Sandra Castro, Ricardo Lopez


The Bus Rider

by Mary Rudge

The Occupation disrupts the
buses the poor ride to the food banks
and clinics, yet they must get there.
The working poor with low-paying
jobs, the workers and others, unable
to drive, they will be rerouted,
they will be late for their jobs, they
will be let out to walk far to the next
bus they must transfer to,
the bus won’t be able to
get through the crowds.
I will not arrive there at the time I
must pick up my
child from day care.
The buses have been rerouted,
the people with walkers and
wheelchairs must find
the bus they must transfer to.
The transfer now is
long away. They have no cars,
there are things
they must carry. Some cannot
walk so far in the rain, in the cold,
they are too ill, or too old.
It is hard enough to pay the bus fare.
Yes, I know you are trying to help me.

The Homeless Person

by Mary Rudge

It’s six a.m. and the homeless
up and down the street must
pick through trash. There’ll be
no breakfast if something’s not found.
There’ll be no lunch or any other meal
if something’s not found. Maybe a few
aluminum cans of trade value,
thrown away hamburger scraps,
half-eaten apple.
Soup kitchen lines extend for blocks
before 8 a.m., no more can be fed
there, even for compulsory prayers.
Old prayers that fed people have failed,
prayers that got people off the street
into homes — not under bridges or in
doorways or under cardboard.
And the God of jobs and neighbors,
the God of milk and plenty, rice,
potatoes, beans and coffee; the God
of cornfields and tomatoes, waits,
expectant, on the corners, as the
oil-slick cars go past, with others,
billfolds bulging, on their way to make
munitions, in the strongest, richest,
cleverest — they tell me —
country of the modern world.

A 1960s Demonstrator

by Mary Rudge

It was tie-dye on the peace march,
it was tie-dye in the park,
tie-dye of our T-shirts
shining through the dark.
It was we in love with earth
and sure that we could save her
in Berkeley where so many
were in academic labor
leading protests for change
Oh yes, there was a time
when all colors
and together
was coming right before our eyes.
but government
with tear gas and riot guns and more
destroyed our work
so government could go on as before.
but NOW can be the time
when protests will right wrong
and a better world can be
created by a song.

The Traveler

by Mary Rudge

I am thinking of myself in Hong Kong
photographing the effigy on the
sidewalk, made in empathy of the
students dead in Tiananmen Square,
a student with eyeglasses beside him
with wire frames bent, crushed,
lenses broken, the book’s pages torn,
scattered, spattered with blood,
the stuffed body askew.
arms outflung, as beaten, shot down,
They wanted the democracy too
they thought this country had —
Now, the foreclosures, the homeless
on the street, the students who
cannot pay the university —
the unemployed in desperation.
An Occupant Speaks
You think this is the end —
watch us begin…