A woman searches for a meal in a trash can, ignored by the crowds. Photo credit: “One American Reality” by Dong Lin
A woman searches for a meal in a trash can, ignored by the crowds. Photo credit: “One American Reality” by Dong Lin


The Trauma Stare

by George Wynn

I look into my mother’s eyes and see sadness for a time lost. She’s hanging laundry on a Tenderloin rooftop in the 1950s, so mesmerized and confused by America she looks out into space for hours at a time after finishing her daily wash.
I see the same blank and weary look in contemporary chronic homeless souls on dreary and rainy days seeking shelter and sleep in the Metro and under Tenderloin and Market Street awnings.
My mother saw the world in the color green. She was beaten down by the time she came to America. Behind her eyes she was remembering Nazi green-uniformed soldiers in jackboots stealing loaves of bread from Jews on the streets of Krakow. She’d shake her soft hand before making a fist, sigh, then exclaim, “Oh how they beat them! Oh how they beat them!”
She would purse her lips for a few minutes, relax them, then look out trance-like with that trauma stare and forget I was there.
Some homeless folks have that stare. Combat photographers who dare to chance firezone fronts along the dance of war have captured the traumatic, “Near Catatonic” stare of American soldiers with too many tours of duty with weapons in their arms, reinforcing the lasting power of an overabundance of negative images in the human psyche.

Walking the Walk
by Judy Joy Jones

walking the walk
living the talk
speaking up loudly
against all inequality
I see
until all people
are free
will I be
forever thru eternity
singing for rights of
women children
and the poor
until they are
treated with dignity
walking the walk
living the talk
singing boldly
and strong
against all injustices
I see
until all women children
and the poor
are treated with dignity

In Defense of the Damned!
by George Wynn

Every time I hear or read
the geometry of negative angles
and meaningless words
of the mainstream media
disregarding the unhoused
as if they were wild animals
who should be chased out of town
I, George Wynn, feel myself
churning on the inside
and move into the
street-writing groove
and play the piano
on paper and sing and rant
as best I can
in defense of
the damned!

Burned Out!
by George Wynn

White as Wonder Bread
muscled, naked to the waist
bare feet
racing a shopping cart
covered with posters
of the Grateful Dead
down Market Street
with manic haste
as if he wants
to push time faster
and get away:
anywhere but here
tendons in his neck
screaming: “I’m on the
verge of breaking!”

by Joan Clair

Was it the sight of an “unsightly” man
like this one the Buddha saw,
inspiring him to give up his palace
of wealth and search for more?
An elderly, homeless gentleman
in the lobby of a library stoops down,
trying to gather himself together —
his paper bags, his clothes in rags
half on him, half on the floor.
I offer the man a sturdier bag of cloth.
The voice from the core of rags and bags
is educated, words enunciated clearly.
“No thank you,” he says.
“No thank you,” said the Buddha,
giving up all his possessions,
trying to transcend the pain of
sights like this one.

blood of the homeless
by Judy Joy Jones

the blood soaked pillow
of a homeless man
who used
concrete streets
for his bed
died in the night
I didn’t know you
my precious friend
but I’ll carry on
the flame
in honor of
your life
you did not
live in vain
may I carve the name
of this unknown poet
in the book of life
you will
be known
as my
eternal brother
forever more

War, Homelessness…
by Claire J. Baker

War, homelessness, poverty
can be made artistically moving —
even beautifully rendered in oils,
pastels, acrylics;
on movietown film; in black and white
and color photos; in true stories,
novels, visions; in rows of
soldier’s boots on display on a lawn.
But friends, folks, fellow
countrywomen and men,
war, homelessness, poverty —
these scourges of civilization
are humanly, simply
and complicatedly


Remembering The Holocaust
by Claire J. Baker

Nazi guards engraved
a number on each
Jew’s wrist
like branding hides
of rounded-up cattle.
long crowded boxcars,
little air,
no sanitation —
the numbers
imprisonment, lice, rats,
sexual abuse,
inhumane experiments.
gas steamed from
showerheads —
bodies incinerated
in round-the-clock ovens
or naked bodies shoveled
into mass graves —
horrors photographed
into eternal infamy
while the “outside” world
mostly wore a mask!

Down on 8th Street
by George Wynn

Both of them
have long white hair
and hip pain
she is as tall as he
They limp along
Market Street
mile after mile
hand in hand
in the rain
Both of them
so quiet
on their way to
the Ferry Landing
for a bay ride
to Tiburon
their treat
of the week
Nothing has happened
to their application
for housing
It’s always the
same old song:
wait till next year
but they still keep the faith
On 8th Street they
each drop four quarters
in a white haired lady’s
outstretched cup
and he even tips his
Giants cap to her
which elicits a smile
from her and a
rattle of the cup

Night Steals Softly
by Karen Melander-Magoon

Night steals softly through the
city streets
Pads gently along urban roads
Covers chairs and tables in our home
Blankets the homeless
Lying in each archway
In each doorway
Blankets without warmth
But democratically
Night arrives for all of us
Consonant with skies
And spinning earth
Night sings the same song
Humming in our cortex
Velvet lullabies
Night comes as gentle mother
Draping layered veils
On presidents and paupers
Silkworms and silken gowns
Shivering children and sober lovers
Dumpsters and dandelions
Masons and musicians
Retreating in the darkening street
Or meeting for a dancing beat
A place inviting dancing feet
Night slides like toffee through the
darkening fog
Covering our faces, legs and arms
Until we too are night
We too become
A democratic state of mind
Invisible and indiscriminating
Creatures of a shadow land
Wrapped gently in a widow’s veil
A blackened sail
A black cat’s tail
All black
While night
Steals softly through
Our blinded minds
All thought of sight
All thought of light
Until we too
Become the night
Until we too
Become the night

A Day of Death
by Karen Melander-Magoon

One sunny day
Last year
A year old girl
And a baby boy
Were both shot
And killed
With guns
The little girl
Was on her nanny’s back
Resting from learning
To walk
On her city block
The baby
Was in his stroller
At the beautiful world
Around him
Eleven times
More school children
Are killed by guns in America
Than anywhere else
In the wealthy world
More children die
From gunfire
Than soldiers fighting
Foreign wars
There are nearly
As many guns
As there are people
In the United States
Half of the world’s
Civilian firearms
Are here in the USA
Where twice as many
Black children
Die from guns
As in traffic accidents
Eight children die
Each day
From gunfire
The poor
Are the most likely
To die from guns
The children of the poor
Are the most likely
To die
Or go to prison
To be tried as adults
For shooting guns
Or be killed
For having toy guns
Of plastic
As they run and play
The answer
They say
Is more prisons
And more guns
More prisons
And more guns

spotters needed
by Judy Joy Jones

spotters needed
catch homeless
trying to pee
eat or sleep
on our fine streets
turn ‘em into
the police
it’s fun —
they sit
too long in a cafe
call 911
and watch ‘em run
teaching youth
working in stores
how to treat
the most helpless ones
of our society
make ‘em walk
until they die
so we can
be happy and free
get ‘em
out of sight
and everything will be
all right

The World Asks for Solutions
by Karen Melander-Magoon

The world asks for solutions
As children die
As children are exploited
Tortured, killed, left to wander
Along streets
That are no metaphor
For our journey
To understanding
Children do not live in metaphors
They live in a real world
Where they are hungry
And no one can feed them
And cannot find clean water
Hiding from drones
Ubiquitous drones
That kill without conscience
Or even awareness
Of their destructive
Robotic power
The world asks for solutions
End war
End greed
End capitalism
That creates war
That creates greed
Creates a world
Of robots
With no conscience
And no awareness
Of their violence
To children
Creates a world
Of chemical plants
And fracturing drills
And oil spills
And cancer
With no conscience
Or awareness
Of the death they bring
To all
Not just to children
The world asks for solutions
They are within
Its own grasp
Opened to give life
Opened to allow abundance
Opened to create
Opened to sustain again
Bring life again
Bring joy again
Bring peace again
To children
Bring peace again
To everyone