My Oakland is often empty
liquor bottles loitering
in florescent pools of streetlamplight.
My Oakland smells like no other Oakland:
cinnamon, brackish water, pissy tunnels.
In my Oakland, old men stroll slow, decked out from head to toe in red or charcoal suits, fedoras tipped jauntily. Sometimes they wear flea-market sandals with meticulously pressed trousers or aprons smeared with the blood of butchered animals. Rumpled-tressed girls peddle by on flea-market bicycles. Roast duck dangle in smudged shop windows. Turtles flail in tubs of water. A gull limps, broken-winged. The Coroner's sign burns.
In my Oakland, you can hear the rattle of dice,
wings flapping in startled flight,
the whistling of stones thrown
by teens lookin' for a Friday night thrill.
In my Oakland, you ride at night, drunk, or in the afternoons, drunk. At midnight, you ride to De Lauer's, furious at your boy, to read fashion slicks, back to the leering. You ride past the spot you want to hit with laundry lines of shopping-bag owls. You ride past signs in spanish, chinese, vietnamese, khmer, tagalog etc. You ride past the bars, the warehouses, the barbershops, the temp agencies, the pot clubs, the alternative art spaces, the boutiques that will eventually close for good cuz there's no money in Oakland.
There never was any money, even though Jerry Brown promised something called progress. Nothing really changed (for poor folks), even though a military academy and luxury condo buildings were built. Downtown's still a ghost town by 5 pm, weekdays. Non-whites flee for Stockton and beyond. That's Oakland to our mayor: a world where he moves from one fancy building to another overlooking Telegraph, the shadows on crack.