This Is Oakland

From the top of the Oakland hills,

sparkling – the Golden Gate.

From the windows of new apartments

the Bay Bridge,

a string of lights over the water when the sun sets.

Two blocks closer to downtown,

rows of ragged tents line the sidewalks,

empty boxes light the bike lane.

The view from here:  chain link fences, the tires of trucks.

A man rises from one of the tents –

            the son of a grieving woman.

            He straightens his muddy pants,

            pulls a pack of cigarettes from his pocket,

            leans into the flame as it lights his face, lined with life.

No view of the Bay from his place,

No shining City in the distance.

Only the sounds of traffic, close,

Well-dressed young people passing, eyes averted.

Bay Bridge, Oakland, California
Bay Bridge to Oakland, California by Quintin Gellar

Mary Elyn Bahlert, 2021


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