Almost Died for Lack of Love

by J. Fernandez Rua

I stay at the California Hotel
three flights up, in 315, a
room with fear-sweat scarred walls
and cracked windows
not much larger than a jail cell.
And a narrow bed
just wide enough for me.
I know —
hardly worth talking about
but it beats the pavement
the crooked slabs of gray
where I barely slept and
almost died for lack of love.
I know —
the ceiling leaks and
the mouse across the hall visits me daily
but nothing’s worse
believe me
than that forever mournful line
where the mind, the soul
dies long before the body
I know —
I’ve been there.
From my window
I see a man stumbling along
always treated like a thing
Could be you
reduced to blue and gray,
a three-dimensional being in a
two-dimensional space
and I pray
God I pray
that he finds a square little room
somewhere, anywhere
just like mine
where he can take off his shoes and
just be. Just be with all that was torn
away and watch his roots take hold
and grow again.
One step
One word
One stitch
One breath at a time.

Women Sleeping in Chairs in San Francisco

by George Wynn

Long ago back in the Midwest
she never imagined her golden
years sleeping in a chair
(the only way she gets her rest)
in a women’s shelter day by day
in the city by the bay
Between winks she listens to
the voices of long lost friends
and realizes her past is finished
yet has reveries about starting
a new life with new friends but
it doesn’t feel the same
almost like the difference
between strolling under the sun
and walking in the rain
In the morning she writes
down her words in her journal
sometimes it gives her comfort
sometimes it makes her sadder
but she is determined that hope
beckons and her nightmare will
some day soon be gone even as
a woman her same age who sleeps
in the next chair says there’s
no magic in the words on a page
she sees her write every day
and accuses her of being addicted
to the song of hope

A homeless man holds a brother who has fallen on the streets. Art by Dave Kim


The Common People

by Joan Clair

The common people should be free
to lie on public commons grass
in a democracy.
If their belongings are in bags for trash,
if they lie down on ground
the air to breathe,
the silence in the air,
the silence in the trees,
silence even in the crow’s
raucous melodies;
the common people should be free
to lie on public commons grass
in a democracy
whether the sun is up,
whether the sun is down,
whether it’s day or night —
they should not be put to flight.

Victims on the Streets

by Claire J. Baker

Uncle Sam & Auntie Em,
no body found on the streets
is a “nobody.”
Who can say that deceased man
lying there or that woman
huddled dead were not once,
if not recently, great?
Slips/plunges into poverty
can be swift & relentless
ripping the safety net
then not fit to hold a fish
or even a simple wish.
Pavement is meant to be hard —
another wake-up call.
Then a chalk outline,
an ambulance tarp over those
who now cannot answer at all!

At Seventy

by George Wynn

At seventy
he’s a man of slow motion
trapped in a fast world
he gets his food and rest
in churches and temples
but his belief is in books
‘cause he’s a literary man
who gets his hope and thrills
writing a poem or two
and a story here and there
about decent people
down for the count
for the street newspapers
coast to coast
he’s slept beneath Redwoods
in the pouring rain
and in Port Authority toilet stalls
in Big Apple January chills
discovering poverty across this land
seems endless since the American
dream has been erased and replaced
by the American nightmare and
the sad thing he keeps repeating is:
“The powers to be don’t seem
to care at all”