Magnolia Street Blues
My next-door neighbors Sharon and Amanda
who live in apartment B on Magnolia
live in the other upstairs unit
of a blue house split four ways
black screen door twin sister to mine
and Sharon and Amanda drag the stairs
buy single cigarettes to smoke indoors
read the news at the top of the stoop
gossip, watch the hood
When I moved in, they’d been friends
for thirty-five years, a balled up sleeping bag
aged on the porch and four houses
on the block were up for sale
All the old neighbors are moving away
the lady in the bottom unit said. It’s sad.
Sharon and Amanda work all day
hang trash bags over their shoulders
bigger than their bodies. Amanda rides a bike
and Sharon walks slow in her Parkway Theater shirt
and teal sneakers. All day they smash plastic bottles
and cans against asphalt, fill their sacks
like two skinny Santas
with no reindeer and no elves,
workshop an upper-floor Section-8
apartment in West Oakland with grates
on the windows shaped like flowers
On our street there’s a new coffee shop
On our street a sign warns Drugs
and Prostitution Prohibited. On our street
a handwritten poster taped to a phone pole
with a phone number says
“Will buy your house for CASH!
Somebody wrote over it
Displacement is Racism
Sometimes when the streetlamps leak
through my blinds Sharon and Amanda’s
names bang in the night, rattle the handle
of their metal screen door
One day Sharon got angry, screamed
Don’t bring that TV in here it’s full of roaches
Once past midnight Amanda knocked
said Hey neighbor, big eyes through my screen
said she needed two dollars for a bus fare
I told her I didn’t have it
On my block the streetwalker named Robbie
said I can call her Buttons
said Sharon and Amanda have maggots
in their couch, said to pretend
I have a present for them and ask
them to let me in. Asked me to look
at their couch, asked me if I ever
smell a funny smell, because
they’re smoking crack up in there
Once around noon Amanda knocked
I opened to her eyes against my screen
You got a package.
Two boxes with my name on them sat outside.
Thank you, I said.
You gotta be careful
People got sticky fingers around here.
Thanks for looking out for me, I said.
We got night crawlers, she said.
We got some night crawlers
Lark Omura was born and raised on the island of Maui and currently resides in Oakland, CA. A VONA Voices alumna, she performs regularly around the Bay Area. Her poetry can be found in Bamboo Ridge, Canary, and The Hawai’i Review, among other places. Her writing often smells of the ocean, and contemplates the beauty of being human within the context of a capitalist society.