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.
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.
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
“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.
as the photos
were passed around like a deck of trading cards.
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,
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
the youth of Oakland