Ode to Oaktown
BY Lenore Weiss
I wired my sorrows into Klieg lights and let them shine all over Oakland,
city of Black Panthers and Hells Angels and General Strikes,
driving from the Bronx in a green Toyota Corolla searching.
Was it freedom, or a film I wanted to make something of myself,
took refuge in Oakland’s Lake Merritt, caught breadcrumbs and fish,
a wayfarer dressed in boots and dreams of Fifth Avenue Peace Parades
to a West Coast of two-story buildings and pastel houses
and summers where the sun did not bother to get up until noon.
Okay, I said to myself, you have to begin somewhere. That was my beginning.
Oakland Raiders won the SuperBowl and I discovered I was pregnant,
sailed a stroller around Lake Merritt and through her Garden Center,
past houses with calla lillies that hugged grey gas meters
even though they were ugly. Oakland took off her clothes slowly
like a woman who wants to know she is loved, following trails in Joaquin Miller
filled with monkey flowers and second growth redwoods,
nuggets of neighborhoods and librarians, the Oakland Museum
surrounded by a moat of golden koi where children entered into culture,
art, and people who hung on walls together.
Let me park my car one last time and walk to the Paramount,
remember the old hotels and faded curtains stuck on brass rings,
where restaurants and condos have become the hope of a business community
that wishes for homicides to fade like fog in the morning,
a place I’ve come to know with gunshots and fireworks,
the way my history has been pressed into a new release.