For William and Michela and Olian

The second poem, by Kalia Mussetter, was written for his memorial service

(after “For Damien and Twyla”)

I hate what this world has done to you,
Wanderers with no home.
Deserted in your own community
by those who should love and guide and support you

Children of our times
A woman of 24 tender years
A man of 36 years
Ground into less in the space of distress

Children in the dust
Then adults in this bitter world
God save you. And God save us

Tears flow like rain on the redwoods
The sadness of those who don’t even know you
Does not know the depths of despair
which will haunt those of us who do

My Christmas joy now bitter and bleak,
when the middle of the month will bring you to mind
all the days of my life

To think of a kind young woman from my past,
who lost her children to despair
Then died at the crazed hands of a drug addled man

Or a man who only wanted to be good – And was
But lonely and in search of community
He let the wrong person in

My sadness is like the cold of a winter night
Wandering with unshorn feet
God save you. And God save us

The little heart of a child should not know such darkness
Nor should the person with no pillow or door come to this
Perhaps you have transformed to what you were to be

But the tired heart of your genuine community
carries the weight of your lost lives

We are not responsible for you,
we who are sent to respond to you
Or are we?
Your parents could not have foreseen this
Or could they?
Your God could not save you
Or did he?

Like the summer monsoon in the barren desert.
Or the cold winter night living outside.
Our tears, both silent and weak, are for you

Can tears and heavy thoughts be salvation?
We hate what this world has done to you,
Our friends from the street
Who shared your hopes and dreams

You were the people of the tender and the bitter years
The people in our hearts.

Photo by Pocho Sanchez Strawbridge, 2019

As We Go  For William Woodard

By Kalia Mussetter   1-14-2023

Into the arms of light

my soul will glide

like the silver fish shedding

the smaller creek for the larger river;

my fins will flash in that moment,

current flowing me

from little waters into big—

soft, soft my body will be,

little shell left on the shore—

all is well,

my soul remembers

And then a mere babe I will be

resting gentle in the blanket

of this new place—

wet at first in the churn away

from my dear body—

soft, soft

I will feel,

tender colors all around,

green and gold laughing 

their delight,

love with my name

in its mouth

Into the deep of light

I’ll fully wake,

ancestors open faces smiling

into me anew,

old earth slumber shaking

from my eyes—

soft, soft

these moments will be,

warm hands helping,

slowing down a bit

the full and spacious glory

Finally in all recognition

stretching the limbs

of my unbound freedom,

in brightening song

my new adventure will begin—

the tribe of my soul a murmuration

dancing all a new dance—

slow at first then finding ease

I’ll enter fully in

soft, soft

my Creator’s welcome will be

fulfilling all joy

The advocates’ answer to homelessness => 2020 Homeless poem

Each year for several years I have captured what I could of the experiences of people who have no home to call their own.

<><><><><> 2020

Persist
Persist
Persist
The problems are ours to solve
The problems we have are the problems we share
 The people we know are the people who care
 The people sitting at the big tables
The people at the side of the ditch
The people who cry
And people who sigh in despair
Persist
Persist
Persist
Hold on to hope
Or tie your hope to your bicycle
But persist
Demand
Investigate
Persist
For years you have tried
For years you have cried
Some years you feel like you have died
Persist
Demand
Instigate
Explain
Support
Move forward
Fall back
Move up
Fall down
Get yourself up off the ground
Spit out the dirt
And persist
 
It takes the squeaky, the kind, the action
To reveal the humanity of it all
It takes officials with their purse strings and their blah blah
It takes the neighborhoods with their concerns
It takes compassionate people with money
It takes you
It takes me
To solve the homeless mess
To wrestle with the forces of greed and economy
The unseen hand has its fist pounding on the backs of humans
The forces of the night
And the chilly morning light
Reveal the suffering
Of those without a home of their own
 
Find a pillow
Build a door
Find in your hearts the answers
So this disgrace can be no more
Listen to the people who know the terrors of the streets
Examine the data there is in store
Find the funds for freedom’s answer
Don’t study war no more
Persist
Persist
Persist

<><><><><>

The 2019 Homeless poem

Poem 2018

Poem 2017 – there was no update

Poem 2016

Poem 2015

The day my parents named me

I make myself cry

Goodness in his heart

At home with the homeless

here and now

190917 Redwoods (13)

when you formed in your mother’s loins
no one wanted this result for you
the vagaries of life
in tragedies of death
came to this place
that you are in
here and now

you gave
and you received
the naïve joy of youth
a fleeting fantasy
of sustenance
longing to recover it
here and now

the lives you bore
in your own womanhood
blew away
in a moment
the tempest of tragedy
lost in your lifetime
here and now

then and there
the crush of sadness
tore away
all defenses
and left
just you
here and now

just swallowing pride and hope
community of sharing
had been expected
then you descended
into darkness
impenetrable
here and now

years and decades
passed over like smoke
of sorrow
no relief in mist
of mind bending toxins
no relief for the unbearable
here and now

That’s the world we live in

[Is “optimistic poet” an oxymoron?  This poem can be read column by column or all the way through.  Each way to read may yield perspective.]

190321 Flag raising SR (5)

Screaming at the rain with jail plastic bags in hand
Just released back to the streets without a plan
Soaked to the bone
With no ride home
That’s the world we live in

Signing in the rain when life’s not so bad
Sometimes the simple is enough to be had
Anyone who actually looks at me can’t help but care
As long as there’s some help somewhere
Is that the world we live in

Hours of testimony on spending windfall money
The advocates are there,
although they can hardly hear
The back and the forth of the blah blah
That’s the world we live in

Friendships are formed as we conspire
Plans to make our best get higher
Struggles for money don’t tear us apart
Just life as we know it but we do our part
Is that the world we live in

Friends outside in the rain
Late winter brought misery again
Homeless infuriated at no action
Despite all the signs of the needs in our times
That’s the world we live in

Proposals prepared and numbers add up
Bizarre way to come unstuck
But openness and grace ensue
If with our hearts these things we do
Is that the world we live in

Leaders discussing options
With insufficient evidence and little review
Explanations are made whether softly said or intense
Can’t hear, so can’t tell if they made any sense
That’s the world we live in

Wisdom spoken loud and clear
from the ones that have no fear
Knowing tiny homes or tents
Blessed in community they are sent
Is that the world we live in

Those without homes don’t need to read tomes
They don’t have time to discuss Federal mandates and such
It’s cold and wet out there
Does anyone care
That’s the world we live in

While struggles continue all night and all day
Some may listen to the things we say
Some have a heart and a home and a door
If you let me in I won’t need more
Is that the world we live in

Those with housing confront doing it right
But some people sleep outside at night
While “I” s getting dotted, and “T”s get crossed
What to do for those still lost
That’s the world we live in

Holding forth and shouting out
It’s time to tell the world about
What people want and what people need
Some of us will practice our creed
Is that the world we live in

It’s about money and perception
Yet many have the misconception
That people outside aren’t fit to come in
Because they smell like sin
That’s the world we live in

So many folks really do care
Hours of help and service they share
Compassionate hearts want to be part
Of meeting the need to make a new start
Is that the world we live in?

190322 Home Sonoma Board (1)

<><><><><><><><><> 190322

An Earlier homeless poem

I’m alive
I’m walking down the sidewalk singing in the rain
I’m not sheltered under a bridge
As the water rises.
I’m soaking wet
But I do art.
I have no money
But my boyfriend loves me
In the forests of the night
I shiver
The next day I look for a job
I look forward.
The kindness of strangers sustains me
There is hope because there is caring
Anyone who actually looks at me
Can’t help but care

Even if they deny me.

<><><><><><><> 141211

Before you can dance again

I got bit by a spider
and stung by a bee,
all in 24 hours
once again life came along and made a fool out of me

One thing I’ve learned
as days go by
you have to get back on your feet
before you can dance again

I got hit by a drunk
then sprayed by a skunk
It knocked me for a loop
and I hacked and gagged and stooped

One thing I’ve learned
as days go by
you have to use
both hands to clap

All my stuff got stolen
while I slept on the ground
and none of it was golden
the thief by dreams emboldened

One thing I’ve learned
as days go by
you have to wake up and reach for the sky
even when you want to cry

My partner left in a huff
they’d had enough
of bickering and snickering
and other couple’s stuff

My dog had no leash
so the god damned police
took her off to puppy jail
and left me here to wail.

One thing I’ve learned
as days go by
that a dog will wag her tail
when one of us gets out of jail

One thing I’ve learned
about life on the streets
it’s filled with defeats
and life’s simple treats

like a dogs wagging tail.

Cold / Homeless Count 2018


Cold rain
Driving down the homeless man
Doing his best to live as he can
The world shattering all of his plans

Cold shoulder
And hostile stare
Coming from those
Who don’t want him there

Cold heart in the night
A policeman’s flashlight
and on the cold morn
Wishing sometimes to never been born

Cold numbers
Do the counting on the counting day
Give the impression we can stop this someday
But just to know the need hasn’t assured we’ll succeed.

Cold here outside
On the day he died
Maybe it was different
If someone really tried

Existence is a struggle
the fortitude which humans must muster
to get out of trouble
proves a warm heart has a lustre

Overcoming cold rain
cold shoulders
cold nights
cold numbers
the cold outside
the blizzard of life

Fortitude and kindness
dumb luck illumine
the world’s blindness
to suffering or need
world driven by greed

Homeless carry on
from dusk until dawn
refusing to behave
as only a pawn

refusing to give in
to bureaucrats’ sin
of following rules
set down by fools
who don’t have to sleep
in the street again

Cold rain
Cold shoulder
Cold heart in the night
Cold numbers
Cold here outside

Struggle for lustre
Fortitude and kindness
Homeless carry on
in the street
then it’s dawn,
night’s behind us

Poem 2016

Poem 2015

The day my parents named me

I make myself cry

Goodness in his heart

At home with the homeless

Ferocious fierce kindness [a definitions poem]

Homeless not hopeless
Ferocious fierce kindness
Fierce kindness drives me
Relentless inspiration
Breathe of re-creation
Of the stuff of life
Relentless in the pursuit
Of the best for each person
Judgment be damned
Until equity reigns
To begin again
And toil anew
Here I stand
Awaiting you

<><><>

Homeless not hopeless (feeling or causing despair about something)
Ferocious (aggression, bitterness [anger and disappointment at being treated unfairly; resentment] and determination )
fierce (showing a heartfelt and powerful intensity )
kindness (friendly, generous, and considerate)
Fierce kindness drives me (propel or carry along by force in a specified direction
Relentless (oppressively constant; incessant)
inspiration (mentally stimulated to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.)
Breathe of re-creation
Of the stuff of life (the existence of an individual human being or animal)
Relentless in the pursuit (an activity of a specified kind
Of the best for each person (of the most excellent, effective, or desirable type or quality)
Judgment be damned (condemned to suffer eternal punishment)
Until equity (being fair and impartial.)
Reigns (to hold or exercise sovereign power)
To begin again (perform or undergo the first part)
And toil anew (work extremely hard or incessantly)
Here I stand (in, at, or to this place or position)
Awaiting you (be in store for you)
<><><><><><><><><><><><><> 12/09/16

Homeless Count 2016

010516 st rose church homeless (1)

A record number of volunteers came out
To see what they could do about
Sisters and brothers sleeping in trees
Living lives with heads held high, while crawling on their knees
Found cats sleeping in cars
Sleeping underneath the stars
Mothers or fathers, sisters or brothers, right there beside them
Friends at the bottom sharing a life besotten
of turmoil then gladness
despite all the sadness
Beside each other life is complete
with spirit and companions there is no defeat
<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><> 01/29/16 for Marie

010516 st rose church homeless (2)

I make myself cry

winter for robbie
The day my parents named me –
Part two =>End of the Year
– People we saw
On their behalf, I thank and honor kind strangers. (best read out loud)

Kelly and Sara and Neil and Juliette.
Tim and Michael and Ben and Daniel
Lauren and Georgette and Tanya and Julian
Mark and Robert and Myrah and Frank
Kim and Donald and Brian and Cindy
Travis and Terry and Bill and Sara
Ricardo and Linda and Angelina and Jordan
Chris and Patrick and Bob and Anne
Shawn and Sean and Zach and Casey
Cynthia and Aaron and Tina and Robert
John and Jonathon and Hector and Lee
Erin and Charlene and Debbie and Allen
Mark and Ken and Kara and William
Brian and Bryan and Clare and Sonya
Jesus and Maria and Jose and Juan
Tristan and Hailey and Allison and Jeanine
Jill and Jason and Jesse and Tristan
Roger and Jeff and Todd and Amanda
Sarah and Sam and Steve and Shine
Ryan and Belinda and Louis and Favella
Susan and Suzanne and Eva and Adam
Gilbert and Kevin and Krystal and Crystal
Ray and Joe and Jessica and Betty
Patricia and Patty and Paul and Anthony
Joanna and Cathleen and Kathleen and Juana
Julie and David and Lucas and Julia
Elise and Norman and Nora and Thomas
Randy and Florence and Roberta and Leon
Denise and Simon and Simone and Shelly
Charles and Emily and Vincent and Wanda
Carol and Matthew and David and Teri
Jacob and Rachel and Lynne and Andrew
Antoinette and Diana and Dana and Leslie
Anna and Andy and Alfred and Aileen
Clint and Carl and Christopher and Carol
Miles and Erica and Megan and Marie
Zachary and Brittany and Ronald and Jon
Lawrence and Larry and Loren and Lilith
Dillon and Dylan and Anthony and Alicia
And Robbie

We do it for you.

New fire pit, Sunday night