Lark Omura

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

around here.


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.

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