Watch My Cart


by Mary Rudge (United States)

It is my home.

In it is everything I own.

I have no one to turn to,

I need something to return to,

It’s my cart.

On the sidewalk I’m alone

I sleep beside it,

care for what’s inside it.

Nothing a thief would choose, I’m sure

yet I’m more at ease to know that it’s secure

the least thing has value to one who is poor:

dented cans,

a pair of socks — torn,

a paper with my name

that proves that I was born,

a tattered sweater, very worn,

a blanket, for those cold times

a plastic cup to hold for dimes

No place to stay, no place to sleep,

all I own is in a cart, so little to keep.

Thousands homeless in Alameda County

I walk so very far, so very tired

Tens of thousands homeless in California

not ever a job for which I can be hired —

Millions homeless in the nation

Millions more jobless in the nation

so very ill

too serious for the free clinic —

The center director said, “He can’t die here,

call the paramedics they will …”

(He pleads, I cannot pay a hospital bill)

Statistics show millions of children

without health care in the US

Millions of families without

health care

“Take him to emergency”

concerned we asked him, “What else can we do?

Anyone we can call?

Anyone at all to know about you?”

He bowed his head

and thought it through,

pondering, wondering,

and said,

“No one — my cart, is all I’ve got

what’s inside is not a lot,

but will you

Watch my cart?”

That night in my dreams

The shopping carts came,

each one had a spirit that moved it on,

all night through space,

each city, the nation,

they took on a strange configuration,

of dance until dawn —

A gigantic Queen of Carts

with tin can jewels, and newspaper cape,

and a salvage-stuff crown

led each cart to take their new shape,

the carts became the personas of the poor

rolled from all across the country —

through the White House door —

of the people, by the people,

for the people

Give me your

tired, your poor …

The wretched refuse

cast off from your shore

The lost, the tempest-tossed

to sign new orders into law

granting homes for all as legal right

with a guaranteed income, for whatever they could do,

musicians, dancers, artists, writers too,

people cleaning up the

streets and beaches,

washing all the windows

so the sun shines through

and designers made fantastic materials

making comfortable homes and the

man returned from the hospital to see

his shopping cart by his own front door,

a joyful sight —

I awoke in this light!

Oh the wheels of the shopping carts

roll and roam,

only to the stores to bring groceries home,

oh the cans inside, full of nourishing food,

and everyone home in a good neighborhood.

And the world is good.

Made right by the creator’s art

to answer the pleas of the poor

who could only turn to strangers like

me and you

to ask please

watch my cart.

[This poem was first read at a commemoration of October 17th, the World Day for Overcoming Poverty at the St. Mary’s Center in Oakland. It was then published in The Street Spirit, a publication of the American Friends Service Committee]

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