Some people think there is such a thing as safety.

respectability          safety           illusion

 

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The Mission, San Francisco
To walk these streets is to walk the faultline between wealth and poverty.

I walk Valencia Street from 24th street to 16th. In some blocks I do not recognize where I am from a year ago. Rectangular glass, metal,and concrete buildings have usurped the places where old buildings stood. On Sunday, working through the Brunch Swarm is a piece of work. Stores sell organic cotton clothing, … and old furniture and clothing sold as retro with an ironic wink to hipster insiders. The old places are here, too, some of them. La Cumbre for burritos, Fritz for crepes, New York pizza where you can buy dinner for a couple of bucks, in contrast to the new places with their chrome and glass, their dead-stylish neutral grays and browns, khaki, black. Women in tights, big shiny shoes and skinny jackets race past, pushing their babies in aluminum buggies.

Walk up Mission, one block parallel to Valencia. Start at the 16th Street BART plaza, never empty, always thronging with men and women and children, shopping carts, chihuahuas, chihuahuas in shopping carts, wheelchairs, people reeling with substances, people asking for money, people yelling. Between 16th and 24th, the stores include Thrift Town, holes in the wall selling everything from luggage to skinny skinny jeans; outside some stores stacks of mangos, baby fist red bananas, pads of cactus, sometimes the smell over-ripe, water thrown over the pavement to wash away the night before. Families marshall their children to school or appointments.

It is not that one of these is better, but one is squeezing out the other to make The Mission “safe” for the new settlers. It boils down to the illusion of safety. On one side of the faultline, people can afford to think they can create safe lives behind their gates, that because they can they will buy safety for themselves and their children. On the other side, that illusion would be dangerous: there is no safety.

 

THEY BLAME EVE

They blame Eve who
answered desire,
knew better than god

the fruit of
her loins condemned:

Switch.

Mountain schoolhouse
potatoes and onions in the side lot
children walk out of the hills from hand built houses
some don’t know faucets.

Switch.

Chain link fences off
Cougar Mountain Coal.
Outside in Cougar bottom
eleven trailers shelter brain cancer.

Switch.

I heard a man groped a little girl.

Switch.

The earth movers
throw up dust the color of army.
It chalks over the poplar leaves
and ashes the laundry on the line.
It comes between the sick and tired lovers.
It slinks a cur dog, impounded:
PROPERTY OF COUGAR MOUNTAIN COAL.

[Faith S. Holsaert, appeared in Prairie Wolf Review 10/12]

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