by Wendy Thompson Taiwo
Bury erase revitalize gut Burn the effigy sell the bones strip the copper pipes keep the edgy street art Who was it who once said, “Only the rich have shrines”? Old family homes purchased by preservation societies Grounds maintained by garden clubs But what about the homes of southern Black migrants? Modest and square-shouldered men and women who showed up early and bought too late? Low houses with high interest that a straight-backed investor would take one look at and say, “There is no skin left on that building.” Dilapidate decay home demo home reno Are you looking to sell? Will pay $$$$ for your ugly house Call 510-xxx-xxxx Your granddaddy’s ashes got left in that old blue Victorian when it went into foreclosure They dared to auction off his dignity and your mother’s childhood dreams Then they moved your granny into a tent on East 14th No dumping No camping No soliciting Private property How do your uncles eat when there are no good teeth left? Only gold fronts and gold rims and gold flecks in the most expensive headstone, marble or something I swear I grew up here all my life and never saw that park before now grafted over the liquor store where they painted a memorial to Melvin’s baby cousin Oakland’s 5th homicide and the year’s barely started Live curse lose die White moms and their brown nannies caravan unschooling kids to the playground where new xeriscaping hides the body count: Lamonte | black mondo grass – Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ Romell | red yucca – Hesperaloe parviflora Little Mike | lace aloe – Aristaloe aristata all in a row Here now There are luxury mixed-use retail buildings Here now There are bike lanes and blockades for pedestrians Here now There are farmer’s markets and local honey Here now There are white girls jogging by chained-up dogs with Dua Lipa playing in their air pods (Try not to rob them, their fathers are judges) Vouchers no housing EBT no food AC Transit no routes Late fees no future A city, once the most dangerous in the country, is no longer a country for Black boys and men Now the homicide rates are obscured by fun-cool Yelp reviews: Skyler T. Oakland, CA Want the best bulgogi baby back ribs with a side of collard greens and kimchi slaw? Check out this new American southern-Korean fusion joint on Broadway. D S. Emeryville, CA Dying to find a reliable ramen place in the city? Well look no further. I know it’s a bit $$$$ and looks super sketch from the outside but where else can you get served agedashi tofu by hot Asian girls with straight bangs and half sleeves? This ain’t your father’s negro removal this time they came bearing #BLM signs They have no need to valet their Audis security is provided for free all night Even when a shadow follows them home they don’t think twice to call the police Bury dig grave gone What was once here is black and done
Wendy Thompson Taiwo is an assistant professor of African American studies at San José State University. Her poetry has most recently appeared in Rappahannock Review, Jet Fuel Review, Waccamaw Journal, Hey, I’m Alive, and Typehouse.
Brandon Downing’s collections of poetry include The Shirt Weapon, Dark Brandon, AT ME and Mellow Actions. In 2007 he released a feature-length collection of short digital films, Dark Brandon: Eternal Classics, while a monograph of his literary collages, Lake Antiquity, was published by Fence Books. He has recently completed a sixteen-book cycle based around Euripides’ The Bacchae.