The HyperTexts

Homeless Poetry: The Holocaust of the Homeless

This is our "Holocaust of the Homeless" page, with some of the best homeless poetry, prose, art and photography that we have been able to find—all dedicated to the world's homeless people. Here where we publish The HyperTexts, many of America's homeless people are veterans. Others are children. Whoever they are and whatever the reason for their present circumstances, they all deserve our love, compassion, concern, respect and especially our help to get back on their feet.

Some of the poets published on this page are famous, some are unknown, and some are homeless or have been homeless at some point in their lives ...

Epitaph for a Homeless Child
by Michael R. Burch

I lived as best I could, and then I died.
Be careful where you step: the grave is wide.

street lamps make me a shadow at night
and a curse by day
A'isha Esha Rafeeq-Swan

It's alright baby Mama has you now
cuddled close to her breast
where you can finally finally rest
hadn't a moment's peace on earth
did ya hon ...
Judy "Joy" Jones

by Emily Dickinson

These Strangers, in a foreign World,
Protection asked of me―
Befriend them, lest Yourself in Heaven
Be found a Refugee―

This poem by one of the first great, truly original female American poets still speaks eloquently, passionately and powerfully to the modern world. When I heard Donald Trump say that he would ban all non-Christian refugees from "hot spots" in the Muslim world―including completely innocent babies and their mothers―I was struck by the thought that Trump, who claims to be a Christian despite obviously never having read the Bible and certainly not having lived by it, would thus ban the Holy Family! After all, when the baby Jesus was born his parents were not Christians, and he was born in Bethlehem, which is now part of the Palestinian West Bank, where acts of terrorism have occurred. One wonders what Emily Dickinson would make of Trump (or what Jesus would make of him, for that matter).

Come Lord and Lift
by Tom Merrill

Come Lord, and lift the fallen bird
   Abandoned on the ground;
The soul bereft and longing so
   To have the lost be found.

The heart that cries—let it but hear
   Its sweet love answering,
Or out of ether one faint note
   Of living comfort wring.

Little Thrush
by Martin Mc Carthy

for a slain child

When your songs no longer flow,
little thrush;

when gunfire lays you low,
little thrush;

where does your spirit go,
little thrush?

What happens to all you know,
little thrush?

Das Lied des Bettlers (“The Beggar’s Song”)
by Rainer Maria Rilke
loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

I live outside your gates,
exposed to the rain, exposed to the sun;
sometimes I’ll cradle my right ear
in my right palm;
then when I speak my voice sounds strange,
alien ...

I'm unsure whose voice I’m hearing:
mine or yours.
I implore a trifle;
the poets cry for more.

Sometimes I cover both eyes
and my face disappears;
there it lies heavy in my hands
looking peaceful, instead,
so that no one would ever think
I have no place to lay my head.

Translator's note: I believe the last line may be a reference to a statement made by Jesus Christ in the gospels: that foxes have their dens, but he had no place to lay his head. Rilke may also have had in mind Jesus saying that what someone does "to the least of these" they would also be doing to him.

by William Boyd

When nightfall comes to Hobo Town
All the boys are gathered round.
The campfire now is the warm abode
Of these kind gentlemen of the road.
And though their futures may be in doubt
They share their goods with those without.
Especially when dinner is the goal
There's one good soul they all extol.
He's a chef, a real gourmand,
Of his oeuvre they are most fond.
You might think it's roast of lamb
When you smell his curried Spam.

For a Homeless Child, with Butterflies
by Michael R. Burch

Where does the butterfly go
when lightning rails,
when thunder howls,
when hailstones scream,
when winter scowls,
when nights compound dark frosts with snow …
Where does the butterfly go?

Where does the rose hide its bloom
when night descends oblique and chill
beyond the capacity of moonlight to fill?
When the only relief's a banked fire's glow,
where does the butterfly go?

And where shall the spirit flee
when life is harsh, too harsh to face,
and hope is lost without a trace?
Oh, when the light of life runs low,
where does the butterfly go?

Cell Theory
by Tom Merrill

Where they now go to catch a wink
Who stretched out on the green before
Or made hard benches beds because
They lacked a key to any door,
Who knows, but parks gone tenantless
And prisons crammed and overfull
Suggest how sudden aesthetes made
The local scene so wonderful.
Fat tabs for sleeping out of doors
Collectible in cash or time
Now equal several millions owed
Le ville by ones without a dime,
And jail for all nonpaying guests
Keeps flowerpaths more picturesque.

Homeless Us

by Michael R. Burch

The coldest night I ever knew
the wind out of the arctic blew
long frigid blasts; and I was you.

We huddled close then: yes, we two.
For I had left my house to rue
such bitter weather, being you.

Our empty tin cup sang the Blues,
clanged hollow, empty. Carols few
were sung to me, for being you.

For homeless us, all men eschew.
They beat us, roust us, jail us too.
It isn’t easy, being you.

What would Mother Teresa do?
Do it too!
Michael R. Burch

by Michael R. Burch

What good are your tears?
They will not spare the dying their anguish.
What good is your concern
to a child sick of living, waiting to perish?

What good, the warm benevolence of tears
without action?
What help, the eloquence of prayers,
or a pleasant benediction?

Before this day is gone,
how many more will die
with bellies swollen, wasted limbs,
and eyes too parched to cry?

I fear for our souls
as I hear the faint lament
of their souls departing ...
mournful, and distant.

How pitiful our "effort,"
yet how fatal its effect.
If they died, then surely we killed them,
if only with neglect.

Homeless Haiku

The childless woman,
how tenderly she caresses
homeless dolls ...
—Hattori Ransetsu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

to the plum tree:
one blossom's worth of warmth
—Hattori Ransetsu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

One leaf falls, enlightenment!
Another leaf falls,
swept away by the wind ...
—Hattori Ransetsu, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Oh, fallen camellias,
if I were you,
I'd leap into the torrent!
—Takaha Shugyo, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

This world?
Moonlit dew
flicked from a crane’s bill.
—Eihei Dogen Kigen, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Both victor and vanquished are dewdrops:
flashes of light
briefly illuminating the void.
—‘uchi Yoshitaka, loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

This world—to what may we compare it?
To autumn fields darkening at dusk,
dimly lit by lightning flashes.
—Minamoto no Shitago, loose translation/interpretation of his jisei (death poem) by Michael R. Burch

Dewdrops beading grass-blades
die before dawn;
may an untimely wind not hasten their departure!
—Eihei Dogen Kigen, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

Grasses wilt:
the braking locomotive
grinds to a halt
—Yamaguchi Seishi, loose translation/interpretation by Michael R. Burch

by Michael R. Burch

Between the prophecies of morning
and twilight’s revelations of wonder,
the sky is ripped asunder.

The moon lurks in the clouds,
waiting, as if to plunder
the dusk of its lilac iridescence,

and in the bright-tentacled sunset
we imagine a presence
full of the fury of lost innocence.

What we find within strange whorls of drifting flame,
brief patterns mauling winds deform and maim,
we recognize at once, but cannot name.

Ballad of a Bushman
by Wendell Brown

Some clustered bushes shelter me,
In loneliness and misery,
They shield me from the wind and cold,
And help keep what hopes I hold.

I gave my best for Uncle Sam,
And came back dead from Viet Nam,
When afterwards at home again,
Just one among forgotten men.

My world had changed, I was alone.
Nobody cared. No welcome shown.
From eyes of strangers, eyes of friends
My heart was broken, would not mend.

Such awful scenes of dead mankind
Blood-soaked the regions of my mind.
For me the loss of days, long gone,
Leave me no choice, but to wander on.

What do I seek and do not find?
Where is the comfort for my kind?
No cheerful hearth awaits for me.
My days plod on eternally.

But wait, I say, don’t pity me.
I have the mountains and the sea.
I’ve watched the cities sprawl and grow,
With “people-boxes” row on row.

I’ve seen men slaving lives away.
Pursuing money night and day,
Confined in concrete kennels high,
Commercial treadmills in the sky.

I too need money, that is true.
In meager bits I beg from you.
I am not proud, I have no wealth.
I am thankful just to have my health.

My wants are few, but this I’ve found,
What peace is mine, comes from the ground.
God’s friendly bushes are my “pad”
They gave what little ease I’ve had.

They know full well I sometimes cry.
They know, as I, that men must die.
Before that time I want life
With simple comforts, kids and wife.

For now, I live the life I’ve got.
A victim of the war I fought.
The bushes know, I’m sure they do
They shelter me, and others too.

They always greet me as a man.
They keep me warm as best they can.
They shade me from the blazing sun.
And welcome me when the day is done.

But how long will my bushes stand
As urban growth spreads cross the land?
I pray for bushes. Let them be.
They make a “home” for now, for me.

Wendell McKelvy Brown was born Feb. 19, 1945, to Lucille Brown and Willie Scott in Little Rock, Arkansas. From infancy, he was reared by his mother and stepfather, William Vines. When he was baptized as a boy and learned about his biological father, he took Brown as his surname. Wendell Brown married Marita Nelson in 1966, and they had a daughter, Trina, in 1967. Soon thereafter, he was drafted and served as a sergeant in the U.S. Army in Vietnam in Qui Nhon, Binh Dinh province. He was honorably discharged in 1971.

According to his daughter, Brown blamed a shattering experience in Vietnam for problems and addictions that plagued him for the rest of his life. As Brown was being pursued by Viet Cong soldiers, a woman hid him in her hut. In a letter to former California Senator Alan Cranston, Brown described his experience as follows: "...the young lady I was with saved my life because she motioned to me to be silent. I rolled over reaching for my weapon as a Vietcong soldier was prodding where I was with a combat knife. I watched holding my breath, while my heart was about to explode out of my chest. In horror I saw the knife plunged effortlessly into the middle of the girl's chest. I lost all control and started firing repeatedly, killing two Vietcong soldiers and an officer. Their deaths did not relieve my shock but added to it."

From then on, Brown had visions and nightmares. His marriage failed and he ended up on the streets. While working as a bricklayer in 1983, Brown had a flashback that caused him to fall from a ladder. He ended up unable to work with a dislocated back. In 1991, Brown moved to Brentwood, California carrying a "Will Work for Food" sign. That didn't work out wonderfully well, so he chose to think outside the box. He decided to give people something instead: his poems. For more than two decades, he would stand by the side of the road, smiling and holding up a sign: "Poems to Go" or "Uplifting Poems to Go."

At first Brentwood residents were reluctant to accept him into their neighborhood, but that soon changed. Brentwood became "like a family to me," according to Brown himself. "I know if I'm hungry, within 30 minutes I'll have some food, and within a few hours I'll have some money."

“[Brown] sat in front of Vicente Foods for the past 20 years and the community grew to know him very well,” Brentwood resident Marilyn Pivnick said. “He was very sweet and knew all of the people in the area, including the names of many of the children. He’s been a fixture in the neighborhood. His poems were very heartwarming and sensitive. He was a very prolific poet: he had comments about what was going on in the news and always had new work all the time.”

Wendell Brown's poems earned him enough money to eat and get by, and they brought him a measure of fame. He read one of his poems to comedian Roseanne Barr on TV. In 2010, actress Jamie Lee Curtis posted an article about Brown and his poem "A Day to Be Thankful" on the Huffington Post website. "I have read so many [of his poems] over the years and have always appreciated them and him," Curtis wrote.

Wendell McKelvy Brown died at age 69 on September 1, 2014 after a brief illness. He was buried in Arkansas State Veterans Cemetery in North Little Rock. He is survived by Trina Brown, two other daughters, five siblings, three grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Photographs and Art by Judy "Joy" Jones

by Jim McManmon

Living in a drainage ditch
which I have to abandon
when heavy rains come,
gives Me protection from some
who may wish Me dead.

Most often people are kind,
though some refuse to see Me.
Even when I stand in rags right
before their eyes, I remain invisible.
 . . .

I smell and you give Me shampoo
and deodorant.
I walk in rags and you give Me
used clothing and clean socks.
My stomach aches for lack of nourishment
and you give Me food and drink.
I'm lonely, or in jail, and you visit Me.
I'm sick and you are at My side.
I die and you shed tears for Me
and comfort my widow and children.
I'm addicted to drugs or alcohol,
and you welcome Me and show Me the 12 Steps of Recovery.
. . .

Whatever you do to these, the least of My brethren,
you do to Me.

Homeless Man, acrylic, canvas, 1996, by Judy Jones

maybe darwin was right
survival of the fittest
or damn richest
or maybe im an angel
awaiting heaven ...
A'isha Esha Rafeeq-Swan

Mother Teresa, oil, masonite, 1994, by Judy Jones

I want to be a Missionary of Charity
so I can lead the poorest of the poor
straight to heaven's doors
where they will suffer
no more.
Judy Jones

hear my brothers heartbeats
by Judy Jones

yeah sweet baby
hear ya heartbeats
an see yo tears of blood
dyin 'fo our eyes
on dem cold fuckin
concrete streets

systems made to kill
not heal
people gettin rich
off po mans back

have a drink
sweet darlin
its on me

oh yeah baby
humans not made
to die like animals
on filthy streets

police arrestin
po fallin down
from hunger an neglect

yeah sweet baby chile
hears ya heartbeats
an sees yo tears of blood

yo piercin screams
echo in da night
beggin us
to give a damn
if ya sees
the mornings light

so darlin
have a drink on me
yeah sweet baby
dis ones on me

mans not made
to die on filthy streets
     could be me

yeah sweet baby
hear ya heartbeats
and see ya tears of blood
dyin 'fo our eyes
on these cold fuckin
concrete streets

            could be me

these poems pourin
thru my pen
will only end
when no man
or child
dies without food, shelter,
clothing or medical care
Judy Jones

Ode to Mitch Snyder

"Only the chosen ones have eyes that really see and ears that hear"
by Judy Jones

Ode to Mitch Snyder
Judy Jones

It's alright baby Mama has you now
cuddled close to her breast
where you can finally finally rest

hadn't a moment's peace on earth
did ya hon
Oh Mitch Snyder
chosen driven haunted one

You shed your blood so others could live
taking in by the thousands to your
shelters' warm arms
the poor unwanted neglected on earth
they flocked to your door knowin
a night's peace could be had
with no questions asked

In the coldest darkest nights
thru blizzards rain sleet and snow
as we slept warmly in our
secure little beds
with dollar signs dancin thru
our empty little heads
you darlin were collectin the
remains of the no names
at the city morgue's door and
holdin em tight to your breast
for you were the orphans'
god on earth Mitch
the daddy mother brother all in one
for the millions without anyone

on this earth you walked
alone and abused
but your mission my friend
bears fruit
The homeless of this land have
one less tear one more meal
and a night's freedom
from the violent who
eat the weak on the streets

unconditional love you gave
24 hours a day
you took in what society throws away
the strays
yea child you walked in dem shoes of
prisoner tramp and thief
so you knew didn't ya hon how it felt
on dem cold filthy concrete streets

humbled yourself before mankind
and now your chosen soul child
has gone home to god for its final rest

Oh yeah sweetie pie
your time for wailing done done
and for the price you paid Mitch Snyder
the whole world's gonna honor and
pay homage to you thru eternity

don't need to shed your tears
no more child
it's time for the trumpets
and peace bells to ring out your
name to everyone on earth and
all the saints gather round
and place upon your precious head
the crown of the brave valiant
and those that persevered

in thy hands feet and brow
the stigmata do i see there
we we crucified thee mitch
with ignorance pride and
tightly closed eyes

and in your side with
your own hand
you placed the final wound
cause child you had given
all you came to earth to give
and winged your way back home
to god as angels do
as soon as their chosen works are thru

a saint's halo shall grace thee
of this i am certain

and now mr. snyder may i
this unknown poet wash
your holy feet with my teardrops
dotted here and there
and dry them with my hair

you died for love mitch snyder
and i/we love you

Note: Two thousand people sleep and eat in his shelter nightly who otherwise would be on the cold streets of Washington D.C. They have named a street near the shelter after Mitch Snyder. Six months after I met him, he died by hanging himself. I am forever grateful that Mitch gave his life for the poorest of the poor. Judy Jones.
This article first appeared at
To visit
Bones of the Homeless, a site with photos and articles by Judy Jones, click here.

another homeless person died
Judy Jones

another homeless person jus died
another homeless person jus died
and not one person cried
not one person cried

cause its just another
homeless person that died
not people like you and me
like you and me

someones dyin
in the gutter somewhere
dyin the gutter somewhere
with nothin
but their soul laid bare
nothin but their soul laid bare

homeless chile
eatin from a garbage can
eatin from a garbage can
and not one person sees
not one person sees

old woman fell on the street
cause she'd nothing to eat
nothin to eat
old woman fell on the street

tonight i looked in the mirror
and cried
for i saw my own soul had died
my own soul had died

Holocaust Museum
for the Poorest of the Poor
Judy Jones

In the holocaust museum
of the poorest of the poor
will lie all the tears fears
shrieks and moans
of the millions who died
on cold concrete streets

walking in the door
walls weep blood
coffin after coffin
of no name graves
will haunt each visitors face

no one can escape nor change
the holocaust
of the poorest of the poor
all over earths shores

each visitor may claim
a grave of their own
and their names will stand
for the no name that died

and before our eyes will be
pictures of those living on the streets
hands stretched out
for one tiny morsel of
human love

all their misery and pain
coming back to claim
those hardened hearts
that refused to see
the homeless person dying
on the streets
was, is, you and me

why god why
Judy Jones

why god why
are there so many
dying on our streets
in horrid poverty

why do you
let the homeless
suffer day and night
without a bed
to lay their heads

why do you allow
people to die hungry
and alone
why god why

'you are my hands and feet'
a most tender voice said to me

'when you pass
a homeless man
dying on the street
tis me you see'

'when you reach out
to feed house and clothe
your brothers dying
before your eyes
you will no longer ask
               'why god why'

The Poorest of the Poor

 missionaries of charity

by Judy Jones

Washington, D.C. was having one of its worst blizzards. Determined to get to Mother Teresa's house for homeless men and women dying from AIDS, I asked the bus driver to let me know when we got to my stop. "What street is that?" he asked. "I have driven a bus in D.C. for twenty years and have never heard of it." Someone on the back of the bus yelled out, "I know where it is. I'll let you know when we get to your street."
Thank goodness, I thought. Living in California had not prepared me for snow and freezing temperatures. The day before, I had tried to get to Mother Teresa's orphanage for newborn babies located in the Chevy Chase section of Washington D.C. When I asked people on the street for directions, one said defiantly, "We don't have orphanages in our neighborhood." Unfortunately they do and I did find it along with five of the most beautiful newborn babies you have ever seen. Mother believed in small things with great love, not numbers.
The white house at the top of the hill was huge, and I had to wade through waist-deep snow to get to it. Perhaps a senator or congressman had owned it before Mother Teresa made it a home for the dying destitute of Washington D.C. Knocking on the door I was apprehensive. Having only volunteered with homeless men suffering from AIDS in the past, I wasn't prepared for what I was about to see.
"Hello, come in, please," said the Sister at the door. "Will you be able to come every morning this week and help us get the elderly women out of bed and into baths?" "Elderly women?" I asked, thinking the home was only for homeless people with AIDS. "Yes, we have six homeless elderly women and they can't get out of bed by themselves."
As Sister took me downstairs to the basement where the women's beds were, I heard screaming. Walking up to the woman screaming, I said, "What's wrong, may I help you?" She appeared to be in her nineties, all shriveled and tiny. "Please, please help me up." As I started to lift her she looked into my eyes and in an almost angelic voice said, "I'm as heavy as a sack of bricks!" Laughing I assured her she wasn't quite that heavy.
"We found her in the snow, she was dying." said the Sister. "In the snow?" "Yes, people call and let us know about certain ones dying outside, alone."
"Please help me," a voice etched with pain said behind me. A young woman in her early twenties was sitting on the side of her bed. She was dying of AIDS and was homeless. "Would you please put some cream on my legs, they hurt so badly." Reaching for the cream on the dresser beside her bed, I gently rubbed some on her legs. "Oh thank you, God bless you," she said. Her name was Rose.
"Hello, and welcome." Two bright and cheerful volunteers from France smiled and offered me their hands. "We go around the world volunteering for the poorest of the poor. There is nothing better on this earth to us than to offer a helping hand." I couldn't agree more, I thought.
At that moment a huge crash came from their kitchen. A woman named Jewel was throwing her food and dishes on the floor! She wanted something and no one had heard her calling — this was her way of making certain we came. If I had no one to even help me to the bathroom, I wondered what I would do. Having a family makes it all too easy to forget those who don't.
As I looked at the other young women in their beds, all certain to be dead within the next few months, I could feel Mother Teresa's presence. Her love and simplicity were everywhere. Mother never fought back in worldly ways, lawsuits, etc., for help for the poor. Her weapon was prayer. And her prayers were answered in remarkable ways.

Walking down the hill to the bus, with snow blowing in my face, hot tears ran down my freezing cheeks. I felt powerless to do anything but totally rely on God at that moment. Otherwise, I couldn't come back to this house in the morning. The suffering was too great inside those doors. Mother Teresa's deep love for the poorest of the poor is the only reason I went through them today.
"Can you paint?" asked the thin sister who opened the door the next morning. "Oh yeah," I said. "Would you be so kind as to paint some roses on the counter in the kitchen in the women's shelter?" God had seen my tears falling in the snow on the way home yesterday, I thought, and knew the way to my heart was to put paints and a brush in my hand! I had been given a special grace.
The two French volunteers were standing by the bedside of Shelly, weeping and praying. Shelly wasn't expected to make it through the night and these two strangers loved her more at that moment than even her own family could have. They were part of her heavenly family, of this I am certain.
When I arrived the following morning, walking down the stairs I felt a strange joy in the air. Rose was laid out in white with lit candles all around her bedside. At twenty-three years of age, Rose, a woman in our nation's capitol had died of AIDS, homeless. I glanced at her legs, the legs I had rubbed the cream on when I first got there. The Sisters' faces were filled with joy knowing Rose was home now, home with God and no longer in horrid pain. Rose not only had the pain of a disease which inflicts unimaginable suffering, but more importantly the pain of being homeless, with no one.
A man and woman came into the room and looking at Rose's body said, "We are her relatives." The man turned to Sister Emmanuel asking, "Did she have any money left from her welfare check?" I couldn't believe that would be their only concern. Their sister had just died and they wanted what little money she might have had. And then I knew. I was seeing stark poverty before my eyes. It rips through all known socially acceptable politeness. The poor don't have time for that. They have one thing on their mind, survival. Money affords us time. Time to mourn behind closed doors, time to heal and the ability to "present a happy face" in society. The poor only have time to think about the next meal, about finding someplace warm to sleep, and about making it to the morning light without being mugged or worse. For a moment I had forgotten Rose was homeless. And her brother and sister standing over her body loved her deeply in the way they could, and I knew Rose would have wanted them to have any money she had. She had fought a hideous illness that ripped her life from her at the age of 23. Yes, she would have given them everything she had. The torch they carried was now for three.
"Judy, Judy! It's Jacob." Turning around, I said, "Jacob, what are you doing here?" We had both volunteered together at Mother Teresa's Gift of Love House in San Francisco, which is also for the homeless with AIDS. Jacob had moved to Washington D.C. when he heard the Sisters needed help lifting the men, giving them baths, etc.
"I was really angry with the Catholic Church," Jacob told me once. "I had been very faithful to them for years but felt they weren't helping others as they should be. One day I saw a group of tiny nuns in the park outside of city hall feeding the homeless. I found out they were Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity Sisters and I've been volunteering with them ever since. That was ten years ago. And you know something? I don't have time to be angry at the Church anymore. Mother Teresa's unselfish giving to the poor opened my heart and offered me a way to be of service in my retirement years."
Jacob died recently of cancer. How many diseased bodies he fed, held and bathed, and how many tears he dried in the early morning hours, as he sat patiently by one bed after another, will never be known. Nor will we ever know how many huge pots of soup Jacob lifted with the Sisters into trucks to take to the starving in the parks. If there is any work to be done in heaven, I know Jacob is there offering his strong arms and huge heart.
"Hello," said a very young woman in a wheelchair as I walked in the women's bedroom the next morning. "I'm Regina," she said, offering her hand to me. Regina was in her twenties and was also found dying in the snow by the Sisters. She has the mind of an eleven year old, has cerebral palsy, and AIDS. "I'm going into the hospital in the morning to be operated on," said Regina. "They are going to remove some of my toes that were frostbitten when I was in the snow." "I'll come visit you if you like," I told her. I took her huge grin for a "yes."
Regina was in bed in the charity ward of the hospital being prepared for surgery when I walked into her room. Her face glowed. "Oh, I'm so happy you came," she said. "Would you go get me some cigarettes?"
"This is John," said Regina when I came back, handing her the cigarettes. A well built young man sat by her bedside, also in a hospital gown. "I was shot by a gang member," John said to me. Regina teased him saying, "Oh, John, sure. Come on, you know you were out pulling a hold-up and some guard shot you." John adamantly shook his head. She threw back her head laughing.
"Regina, I brought some clay. Could I do a small bust of you while we talk?" I asked. "Sure," she said. I sculpted and listened while Regina explained how she ended up in the snow where the Sisters had found her. "I was very sick and went to the emergency room at the hospital. The nurses gave me some pills and sent me on my way. They didn't know I couldn't read and that I had no home and had been staying in a shelter in downtown D.C. that lets you sleep on the floor, since they don't have enough beds."
"So I was walking to the bus stop and felt really bad and sleepy. I sat down in the snow under a tree and when I woke up the Sisters were smiling at me and asked if they could help me to their house. 'We have a bed for you,' they said. And that's how I got to Mother Teresa's house, high on the hill." Giggling she added, "Would you go get me a Coke and candy bar, please?" I did and heard the doctors telling her as I walked back in her room, "We can either remove two or three toes. One might get better in time. It is up to you." "Oh, take them all now. I can't walk very good anyway because of my cerebral palsy." But instead of pitying herself, Regina beamed with an inner light, her radiance more pronounced as her outer situation grew more dim.
When I got to Mother Teresa's the next afternoon, there was Regina in her wheelchair with her feet bandaged, at the dining table with the elderly women surrounding her. Here was a young woman, half their age or more, in even worse condition than their own. Regina's sweetness and joy took their minds off themselves and their own intense suffering. God works in mysterious ways.
If I could offer a gift to everyone on earth, it would be to spend a day in any of Mother Teresa's houses for the homeless dying of AIDS. If heaven can actually be felt upon the face of the earth, it is here, in these rooms of Mother's, where the unwanted who seem thrown out of society have the great grace of dying in the arms of angels.

This article first appeared at
To visit Bones of the Homeless, a site with photos and articles by Judy Jones, click here.

An Angel Appeared

by Judy Jones

While on my daily jog I stopped suddenly when I passed a yard sale with signs screaming in bold fluorescent yellow/limegreen letters ... "All proceeds of this sale go to the AIDS Foundation". I went up to the thin young man seated at the back edge of the well manicured lawn. Eddie was grinning, but his tightly clenched teeth revealed his anger. Blatantly I asked, "Do you have AIDS?"

"Yes," answered Eddie.
Thus began our one month whirlwind friendship. I, a stranger, ushered into the life of a dying young man at the most tested time of his rapidly advancing AIDS disease. He told me his family and lover had deserted him after learning of his disease. We talked for a few moments and I said, "I live around the corner. I feel certain we will meet again quite soon, Eddie." Little did I know it would take place the very next day.
As I was going to the neighborhood market the next day, in front of an outdoor florist shop was my new friend Eddie, once more with signs. This time he was picketing the flower shop. The signs said, "The owner of this flower shop stole two thousand dollars from me." A police car was parked across the street, and an officer inside the car was eyeballing Eddie, with a 2-way radio held to his mouth, monitoring his every move.
"What's going on Eddie?" I asked. Dying people are like young children who have not been taught how to lie. All pretenses fall away fast as death envelopes their souls. Eddie blurted out the owner had $2000.00 of his money, a down payment on a car Eddie wanted to buy from him. Eddie's bank wouldn't OK the rest of the money and the flower shop owner refused to refund his money, which he badly needed.
After listening to the whole story I once more said goodbye to Eddie and went home in haste. I immediately dashed off a letter to the owner of the flower shop explaining that if he did not return Eddie's money I would print an article in the newspaper telling all the details. I was a journalist for a local newspaper at the time. Within 24 hours, $1000.00 of the $2000.00 had been returned to Eddie.
The following day, I paid a visit to my new friend. AIDS was riveting through his thin frail young body like a hurricane. I suggested to him that we go to the beach with a tape recorder and record the story of his life. I would type and send it to the local AIDS Foundation newsletter to share with others. Eddie said fine. For the next six hours Eddie poured his 28-year-old soul's journey on earth into a mechanical tape player and my heart. I laughed and cried with him as we relived together every second of the important memories of his life.
The next morning I went to his apartment with some clay to do a sculpture of Eddie. He greeted me excitedly. He explained as I moulded him in clay that he had been evicted. He had lost his job due to his rapidly advancing AIDS. AIDS is a disease which leaves only destruction in its ruthless path. It cares not for a person's dignity. Neither did his landlords who wouldn't even listen to his plight. I got him boxes so he could pack and move immediately. Death was very near him, his short time on earth's shores almost through.
The following morning I found my friend huddled in the corner of the back alley behind his apartment with his belongings being tossed out right and left before my eyes. His landlords were still inside. They were literally throwing him out in the street. I gathered young Eddie in my arms and he cried. "I want to go back to San Francisco to my special AIDS ward. They love me and treat me like I am a human being, not like a piece of rotten meat to toss in an alley. They really love me. I just gotta die there, where I am loved."
Eddie's weakened body burned with fever and I cried as his hot tears warmed my cheeks. I had no car to drive him nor any money to fly him there. I began to pray.
Out of nowhere appeared an Angel. A total stranger, he was a dark handsome middle-aged man. Walking directly up to us he said, "What's wrong?"

"Eddie's dying of AIDS disease and has been evicted form his apartment," I said. He wants to go to San Francisco to die with people that love him. He has no way to get there."
The stranger looked at Eddie and said, "I'll take you there, let's go." He loaded Eddie's belongings in his van at a speed beyond mere human ability. I put my arms around Eddie, kissed his burning hot cheek and said, "Go with this stranger Eddie, he is God's Angel!"
I never saw Eddie again except in a painting he asked me to paint of him. "First," said Eddie defiantly, "I want to be staring straight at the viewer. Then I want my heart broken down the middle with jagged edges and barbed wire bound around the two broken pieces. And please write the word 'AIDS' on my chest above the broken heart."
"Yes, dear Eddie," I answered, "I will paint that painting."
May God shelter and comfort Eddie's soul thru eternity. We were heavenly attended to that day by an Angel who appeared from nowhere. Eddie, I, and the Angel will meet again.

This article first appeared at
To visit Bones of the Homeless, a site with photos and articles by Judy Jones, click here.

Love In the City Today

by Judy Jones

Dear Jesus, help me to spread thy fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with thy spirit and love. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of thine. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus. Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. Blessed Mother Teresa, 1910-1997

Walking to the trolley in the dark, I am the only person on the street at this hour except for a couple of homeless people, one sleeping on a wet piece of cardboard (it's raining) and the other pushing his overloaded "grocery cart" home. Two police cars watch me closely, trying to figure out why I am out so early in the morning. There is a young person on the corner, in front of a liquor store, who might be a gang member. He looks about fifteen years old. He too is the object of intense scrutiny by the two patrol cars. I am on my way to Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity's house for mass in this city.
As I go up the dark brick stairs to Mother's door, a deep serenity enters my soul. The sister opens it, greeting me with a huge smile, and silently motions me to come in. Entering the chapel, I leave behind family and country, and take on the family of God. I am home.
The young novitiates, all in white, praying on their knees, will shortly be sent out in the world to help the very people I saw this morning, the homeless and the orphaned youth who turn to gangs for a family, one offering a life of violence, but a family nonetheless.
I remember Mother's words, "The Missionaries of Charities are not social workers. We are vessels carrying Gods love to the poorest of the poor."
Their chapel is especially beautiful this morning with the Christmas tree still up, its twinkling lights flickering next to lit candles. Heavenly sounds echo thru Mother's house, as the sisters sing in harmony. The sun slowly rises, drenching the chapel in vibrant rainbow-colored hues as it pours through stained glass windows. The sincerity of their prayers opens my heart. I am so very grateful to be here.
Looking at the young sisters, on their knees, I think how their lives of sacrifice have only just begun. Living in one room together so that they may bond with the poor all over the world, laboring each day to offer a ray of hope to one person's life without any, I am confronted with the shallowness of my own "sacrifices." Giving out of abundance is easy according to Mother Teresa, and only when we give out of our nothingness do we know the true joy of giving. Hearing the words of their prayers; "All the old must dissipate," I think that one day there will be no more poor dying on the concrete streets. And the more we give, the quicker it will happen. Seeing the rapidly growing number of homeless dying on our streets, all over the world, my dream is that we will all become messengers of God's love to the homeless person before us.
After mass, watching the sisters file out in silence, I cannot help but notice the deep joy on each of their faces! Truly the poor they touch during their lives will be especially blessed as they live out their vocation of wholehearted service to the poorest of the poor, given freely. But if you ever want to know the difference between their "free" and your own, you must only look at their daily schedules, rising at 4 AM and going to bed at 9 PM (without coffee breaks at Starbucks), taking turns to pray all during the night while we sleep in our warm cozy beds, you may believe as I do, Mother Teresa's words, "I will make saints for the church" is coming true!
Walking to the trolley stop, song filled my heart! May I share the words with you?

"I want to be a Missionary of Charity
so I can lead the poorest of the poor
straight to heaven's doors
where they will suffer
no more."

This article first appeared at
To visit Bones of the Homeless, a site with photos and articles by Judy Jones, click here.


by Judy Jones

Two people have changed the course of my life...One was working with Mother Teresa and the other was Father Clifford Norman who founded Santa Maria Orphanage in Mexico.

He houses over three hundred orphaned children mostly from the streets of Mexico City, takes care of twenty homeless elders and was starting a home for children dying of aids under eight years of age.

Father Clifford Norman gave his life so that the children would know without any doubt, they are loved by one person on this earth..

Father said he would open his front door and at least once a week, find the filthiest child you ever saw. Looking into Father's loving eyes, they knew, they finally had a Father.

The children come from the worst conditions, living on the streets of Mexico City but all that matters now is they are finally, loved by someone.

Father had dreams of building big schools for his children, wanting the best like any Father would but since God sent him the real 'scragglers' the most unwanted children on earth, by the time he fed, housed, clothed and hugged them nonstop, well, there were schools, but not quite the ones Father had dreams of.

The last time I went to see Father Clifford, two years ago at Christmas time, I knew I would never see him alive again.

I arrived on his doorstep unannounced as I have done since 1988 like all the other 'scragglers' God sends him.

When I left, my heart was opened once more to absolutely knowing on this earth there are people that care so much, they willingly die for that love.

Father took me in and immediately asked my heart's desires.

Well, I had just taken, buses, trains, planes and walked to get to him but instead of answering, "Food and a bed!" my soul spoke.

"I want to paint Father" I said. Within two hours Father had someone go buy me a canvas and I was painting. His failing health had opened his ability to give a trillion times since I had seen him last. This dear priest, dying, wanted to fulfill my heart's desires plus those of his 300 children and 20 homeless elders.

And I remembered. There are people that hear the cries of the homeless, the orphans, the forgotten elderly, the poorest of the poor and open their arms and hearts unconditionally to them in whatever way they feel God is asking.

My heart opened once more to hope, charity and love.

I started a newsletter because of his love...I cannot give things away fast enough to those that have not (and these are mostly the people that can't give because their hearts are closed) because of this special soul, Father Clifford Norman.

Because I live in a large city where people die on the concrete streets daily with people walking by, pretending not to notice, pretending they don't see them eating out of garbage cans, without the ' Father Normans' and 'Mother Teresas' it would be impossible for me to deal with what I see. My heart would break.

Father Clifford Norman and Mother Teresa of Calcutta India taught me that the saying on a T-shirt I was given after donating blood is true...It read:

"Blood is Life Until It's Given, then it's Love."

This article first appeared at

To visit Bones of the Homeless, a site with photos and articles by Judy Jones, click here.


Father Clifford Norman
a letter by Judy Jones

The following letter was written to THT editor Mike Burch by Judy Jones after the article above had been submitted ...

I just had letter from Father Norman in Mexico ...

He cares for 300 orphans at Santa Maria orphanage in Mexico [and] over 30 abandoned elders, and now from his deathbed is starting a shelter for Mexican women and children beaten sometimes to nearly to death by drunken husbands coming home from Saturday night outings.

And he also from his deathbed is starting a shelter for homeless children under eight years of age dying of AIDS.

Sometime I feel we get way off the road of heart into political things when really reaching out to the poor can be done anytime with no laws, no politicians ... just heart.

This ol' dying priest is keepin' mine open.
He loves so much.

Mother Antonia, Tijuana's 'Prison Angel'
a letter by Judy Jones

A letter from Judy Jones to Stephen Hand, editor of, regarding the article "Tijuana's Live-In 'Prison Angel'" by Mary Jordan of Washington Post Foreign Service, which you can read by clicking here.

Judy's letter ...

Stephen, I spent some time in the prison in Tijuana with Mother Antonio and spoke with her often on the phone when I moved to Berkeley. I would take the bus and trolley to Tijuana from San Diego, then another bus to the prison.

And today I found the article in TCR about her. God works in utter mystery.

I intuitively understood God placed me in her life to plant the seed about starting an order for older nuns to carry on her works after she dies. But she just wasn't ready to hear God's will in her life. She yelled at me, "You haven't anything to offer. No money, no car, you are forty!" I just let her yell because she was a clear mirror of me when I resist God's will, of all of us when we are afraid. This was in 1988 and now according to the article you published, she is working to get the order going and already has seven older nuns. She put me in a tiny cell with four women and wanted me to teach art. I had never been in a prison before in my life or since. The room was about as big as a closet and one woman had a tiny baby. It overwhelmed me. And I guess her yelling did push me away since it was no easy trip for me to even get to the prison. Took me more than five to six hours one way, and then depending on how long I had to stand outside the prison waiting for the guards to locate her, etc., it could take up to three more hours.

Maybe I will go see her again. I'll pray about it! Sometimes it appears I am just a catalyst in many different lives and it is usually when they are forming new things, especially the priests and nuns or when people are dying. I always think, "Great! God wants me to be here with this person forever, etc." But so far, God just moves me in and out of lives. I've learned not to get attached and accept it, kinda.

Mother Antonio's light is so bright, Stephen, you literally cannot look at her or get physically close to her. I've only seen one other soul with such supernatural light. And I have talked with others seeing who have experienced the same thing when near her. Her cell she lives in is no bigger than a box.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta started out at age 18 to live as a religious and nothing upset her or alarmed her. But Mother Antonio started much, much later in life after a marriage and children, which makes quite a difference.

The whole time I talked with Mother Antonio, her hands were fingering her rosary beads in her pocket. She never ceases to pray, even for a second. And she told me to just be a little pencil in God's hands." Judy Jones (aka Joy)

man with beggin bowl in hand
Judy Jones

saw a man
beggin bowl in hand
sittin on street

his eyes met mine
our souls entwined
no words did we speak

"im sixty three
had wife an son
killed that nite
hit an run

after my mind
went far away
life became
too hard

carpenter by trade you know
worked with my hands
all my life

now im homeless
waitin to die"

his wrinkled hands and face
wrought with pain
the kind only a homeless life
can bring

"tried to get help
but all the paperwork
my old mind
just didnt understand

its not all bad
lots of beautiful memories
i think about before i sleep

janis my wife
always there to greet
me with a hug

an tommy my young son
runnin up to me
jumpin on my knee

yes ive been blessed
people feed me
every now and then
guess im not
your average homeless man

i knew love
its still inside
what more
does a man need
before he dies "

walking away
i prayed
for this gentle man
with wrinkled hands
who shared with me
his precious memories

Judy Jones

do you pay
i asked the corporation
seeking poetry from me

no but you get will
get recognition
she replied

i pondered that word
long and hard
why would a poet
of simple words
echoing the spirit world
want that

spirit cant be bought
and sold
but still
our souls silent mysteries
must be told

oh recognition
i said
what more could i ask

secrets of time
Judy Jones

a corporation asked me for poems
i would receive pay
thru recognition

what is recognition
for being a receiver
of the silent dreams
of you and i

how can i receive anything
for being a vessel
echoing the secrets of time

could i put my name
on the clouds
sun moon and stars

poetry is that
whispered in our
third ears
beyond time

it knows not
but that you alone
are seeking
the mysteries of life
thru a poets pen

poets are only seen
as prophets
upon their deaths
and what does
recognition mean then

Ode to Judy Jones
A'isha Esha Rafeeq-Swan

this —
resume n poem
is of a SAINT gurl
u jus dont know...
u cant see
from the inside

i see ur wings, bent, torn, bloodstained ...
feet tired, achy, sore ...
mind bionic with missions
of mercy
calling you in da dark

keep flying high ma angel

ur in hell
going God's work

your resume is gold platinum in heaven

dunt worry bout here
its jus a temporary

few  hearts here
pure n ripe
for da ripping

but yours open wide
to da hellish suffering
it's your jihad (struggle)

to impart love
n light
n music
n poetry


he picked da purest of
da pure
and lit your soul on fire

now DANCE among the coals
of ruins

someone has to

and in this dance
u resurrect LIFE
and hope

just look into the eyes

of everyone
u have touched
u will see
a spark of heaven

that you planted

seeds among rubble

let da song begin....

Love, A.R. 2007

The HyperTexts