A homeless man with outstretched arms asks for help. Art by Osha Neumann


Night Streets

by Claire J. Baker

1. As a swaddled small child
she was cart-pushed
from lamp to lamp
by her destitute mother
who sought comfort
from light overhead.
2. Shopping on these streets
the child now mature,
a fulfilled woman,
remembers her mother,
stops under night flowers,
gazes into pale petals.

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.

On the Road to Damascus

by J. Fernandez Rua

Eight years ago
on a blue-bottom, beat-me-down
November night
in a black-and-blue neon life
I walked up on a man
face down on the pavement
dead in a pool of blood
head bashed in and a bag of rock —
La piedrita blanca —
dumped over his body.
And what hurts me
what haunts me still
is that I saw death up close
not only his — but mine too
and wasn’t moved a stitch
no thoughts of God
just another night and
another dead nobody
on another shutdown street
in another boarded-up city
and I didn’t even break a sweat
I just walked on
kept on walking
far and away from myself
away from my own mutilation
my obligation to life and love
kept on walking
a locked down man
in an invisible cage
far away from my soul
so far that I turned into a lump of salt
a scarred wall of stone and
didn’t even know it and if I did
I didn’t give a damn
until now
right now.

Who Are the Destitute?

by Judy Jones

who are the destitute
are they babies
with blood-curdling screams
dying of wretched neglect
hunger and fright
until death’s doors
open wide
silencing forever
the infant’s screams
or are the destitute
the homeless
who aren’t allowed
to sit stand eat or sleep
and put in jails if they try to pee
no the destitute on this earth
are you and me
ignoring the cries of the millions
dying on our streets
and the starving babies’
blood-curdling screams
whose final homes
are unmarked graves
trampled under our heartless feet
   who are the destitute?

I Walked By Jesus

by John Perry

I walked by Jesus
last night.
He was wearing
a grimy T-shirt
grease-stained chinos
and a worn-out
pair of sneakers
with a broken lace.
He stood alone
On Fourth Street
where it crosses Mission.
And looked at me
with longing eyes.
His dirty arms
extended toward me
in a silent plea.
Suffering there
for sins
not his own,
for rejection
He did not deserve,
an outcast
even from his own people.
Standing there
day after day
with outstretched hands;
He offers each passerby
and hope.
As I drop a couple bucks
into his cup,
I wonder
how many of us
just pass on by.

Under Suspicion

by Dee Allen

Protectors of these fascist streets
Chose me as their scapegoat
Callous judgment out of panic —
Three squad cars
circled around me
predators closing in on prey
Frisking down my trench
Frisking down my person
Prying into my tote bag
& found
No weapons, no drugs,
No crowbar, no club
Gave me an unwanted I.D. check,
a consciousness shakedown &
no apologies
Faith in the law obliterated
instantly, at least
since they arrived
Standing at the frontgates
of Sorry Sara’s past 10 a.m.,
I may have been guilty alright.
Guilty of being an
innocent piece of darkmeat
looking forward to an
honest day’s toil.

The Ignored

by George Wynn

In a rainy day Union Square cafe
I hear a tourist say
“They never go away
no matter how much
you give them, you must
learn to ignore them”
As I drink my coffee to the
pitter patter on the glass pane
the passers-by do just that

(cart) Painting by Jonathan Burstein


economic recovery

by Randy Fingland

yes Virginia there’s a
panhandler’s union
an abc of etiquette
passed down through generations
in a constiution
guarantees same rights
to edible leftovers
found beside the road
of needs voted upon by
empty stomachs in passage

The Young Runaways

by Julia Vinograd

When the TV said the sky was falling
young runaways told their friends, packed lunch,
brought a wine bottle and a sheet
and went to the low mountains
where everything was clear as a mirror.
The young runaways let mirrors look at them as a gift.
The mountains were old as they were young, both were lovely.
After the wine the young runaways held up the sheet’s 4 quarters
and caught shiny large pieces of sky drifting slowly down
before the falling sky got citystained, splintered and trampled
by frightened people too busy for sky even when it wasn’t falling.
One girl scotch-taped fallen leaves and a pattern of dropped grey feathers
over her piece of sky, she blew on the feathers, they moved a little
making her dog bark. She laughed and shushed him.
She knew a trading novelty store. An older boy with a guitar
fastened extra strings over his sky piece and strummed it lightly;
it sounded like nothing on earth. It was a gift for the musician
they were couchsurfing with. Good for at least another 2 weeks.
A girl with blonde dreadlocks, a tarot deck and astrological tatoos
wrapped her piece up in her green velvet shawl,
she’s been visiting a goddess coven that might use her fallen sky
as a crystal ball. When the young runaways
cast late afternoon shadows, mountain tall
they’d found good homes for their pieces of fallen sky
and the bottle was empty.
Good homes for everything except themselves.
Young runaways went back to the street, wrapped in folds of time,
shining, hiding behind doorways, sometimes hiding behind clouds.

very late night thoughts

by Michael Leslie

basically waiting to die
this road to nowhere
living ghosts call now!
isn’t it enuf we die,
do we have to kill ourselves?
god’s stuck in mind traffic?
life on earth’s losing will to live
because in capitalism we
can’t cooperate or care;
forcing people off farms
& tenements into tents
where no one’s special!

street inventory

by Randy Fingland

even if it’s fiction
pardon my addiction
to a home of my own
where my stuff can be
sorted to individual
compartments instead of
spread everywhere
through my bags
because comfort
is knowing
what I remember
is still with me

On the Brink

by George Wynn

Whoever has to deal
with foreclosure
and mortgage
has to deal with
how does it feel
to get a raw deal?
and inhabit the
realm of beyond stress
seeing the faces
of bankers who do
not recognize themselves
and the harm they have done
to victims on the brink
holding on day after day
desperate to join hands
to help get out of this mess

After Years of Abuse

by Claire J. Baker

Not destroyed, she slips free,
an heir of fresh air, knowing
never again will she let
anyone push her to the brink,
insult her life, put down
her love and talent, try to part
her hair on the other side,
dye it blue to match her bruises.
Today she walks around a lake,
whispers high points of survival.
Clouds lift from her eyes,
float away on ripples.
She smiles,
reflects how in sunset the lake
glows with gold not of this earth.

There’s No More Walking for Me

by J. Fernandez Rua

There’s no more walking for me
no more pulling and pushing a cart
knapsacks, things, bags on my back.
There’s no more walking for me
no more going somewhere, anywhere,
just because there’s nowhere else to go
or friends looking beyond me
refusing to see
to them I’m already a shadow
a throwaway thing
I still hear them telling me
“Sorry. You can’t stay here.
You need to go.
But please take this.”
No, there’s no more walking for me
No more stretches of street
tar and concrete
that never end for some, for us
who go on and on until we’re gone
No, there’s no more walking for me
no more cops with their batons
pressing me — move on
sticking me — move on
killing me — move on
No, there’s no more walking for me
no more standing in dark doorways
wide-eyed, wired
always ready to pounce
waiting for the heat, the fire
for the light to come
No, there’s no more walking for me
no more dying in gray
Now I’m clean clear through
made new
So when I’m out in the rain
that’s where I want to be
and if I stink, it’s because I want to
and if I sit with the pigeons and
my brother Juan Alberto now and then
it’s because I never want to forget
not ever in this life
and maybe the next
that I’m gray and common too
invisible too
that like them
I lived on scraps and hand-outs too
No, there’s no more walking for me
No more walking for me.


by Dee Allen

A strong community
Is a community
That looks after their own.
A weak community
Is a community
That shows no concern for their own.


Member of the Family

by George Wynn

She says good morning
to the San Francisco fog
prays to God and bites
into an apple before
petting her dog
She’s seen all she wants
to see of shelters and
cops frisking her on
the wrong side of town
Before the sun goes down
she’ll move on to another town
leaving is a matter of habit
At fifty she’s still got
all her beautiful blonde hair
after feeding her dog
playing with his paw
memories of human connection
also keep her company
and give her hope in the raw
cold of an abandoned warehouse
Among her family she alone
is labeled a failure after
her divorce and hospitalization
She can’t go home
and feels so, so, so left out
if only they could understand
she doesn’t want to roam