Thursday, April 8, 2010

Moving to Oakland

I’ve gotten quite a few responses from poets on the call for poetry. I thank you for sharing your work, it is really moving to be trusted enough to see your work. I know it is difficult to share work in progress.

I’ve been writing a lot of poems about Oakland lately, since I’ve recently relocated to this vibrant and sassy city. I’ve also been participating in a lot of community neighborhood planning meetings. I have mixed feelings about a lot of the topics that are covered which can range from not so important (NIMBY or not in my backyard!!) to very large crime issues. One thing I’d like to do is get involved in a youth outreach project in the area as there is a lot of opportunity. I believe in the kids.

At one of these meetings it became evident that the residents of a particular block had reached the limit with some gang activity. There has been a number of high speed accidents where people were accidentally killed by gang members fleeing the area. This poem is a work in progress.

Beat 6X Ingrid Keir

I went to the first neighborhood meeting

since I’ve moved to Oakland.

I walked into All Souls church,

sat in the mahogany Baptist pews.

I went to listen, to meet the neighbors.

To meet the folks in my area,

Beat 6X. There was a well manicured lady

from the Census Bureau

talking about jobs for the unemployed.

She handed out pamphlets

emphasized the 2010 Census

is not something to be afraid of. Next on the agenda

a middle aged woman

giving an update on crime.

It became clear she was a lawyer

representing the neighbors

She circulated photos

12 photos of young men and women.

They looked like ghosts.

Staring into the camera with hardened faces,

brows of steel.

12 photos


Yet most of them looked like teens

underneath their anger. Babies.

She tells the audience

“these are members of Ghosttown.”

The notorious gang

who hang out on the corner

of Apgar and 38th

West and 34th She went on to say

“if anyone in the audience can identify these individuals

we can step outside to discuss it in private.”

A few people headed for the door,

waiting to speak with the lawyer. I felt conflicted

as the photos

were passed around like a deck of trading cards.

It stung.

And yet, the tension in the room was thick like mud.

It is clear the residents have had reached the limit with

crime and drugs. The lawyer went on to say

the neighbors of 34th and West

filed a civil lawsuit

against an inattentive landlord

who let the drug dealers deal

in his property. I was startled to see 8 cops

sitting in the church pews,

listening intently

to the community.

Cops, who have always scared me

with their shiny badges and fat guns.

The sirens and reckless driving.

One got up front

to address the community

to say that no one sees them as people.

The strangest thing happened

a big grin, spread across his face.

All of the young officers stood up

to introduce themselves.

Most of them looked 21 years old,

they said the days they work

gave out their email addresses.

They seemed human. I just moved to Oakland

it is so different

than the streets of San Francisco,

where the bums and the crackheads

don’t form different types gangs.

They hang out with the poets and musicians

on the corner of 16th and Mission. I left the meeting

haunted by those photographs

how they were passed around

living ghosts

the youth of Oakland

Beat 6X

1 comment:

  1. Jessie "Yo Daddy" WhileyApril 8, 2010 at 3:42 PM

    Oakland, I've always said, should be re-named "Little Iraq." I hate to be so negative and pessimistic about the place, but I won't be seen there without police escorts. And it's a shame since there's so much good and so much history in Oakland. I know you'll do much, though, to make it a more inhabitable place.