Ode to Oakland

by Hollie Hardy


In my neighborhood
Hooded figures stalk the midnight periphery

And for the first time in 20 years
I feel the heat of fear
A boa constrictor tightening its grip

Oh Oakland,
Robbery Capital of America
You dirty city, you shadow sister
With your perfect weather
Trendy restaurants, and cheap apartments
The string of pearls lighting your lake
Your legacy of violence
Looming and rearing

One step forward, two steps behind you
Three fatherless teenagers are armed with guns

Because why stand on a street corner
When you can make $300 bucks in 30 seconds
Stealing cell phones from drunk hipsters
And 86 year-old women
And mothers unloading their groceries
And waiters on their way home from work
And cashiers at 7-eleven
And you, walking home from the bar
Just three blocks away

The police are non-existent, of course
Like city funds

In the illusory safety of the dining room
We debate the merits of vigilante justice
Guardian Angels, Hells Angels, East Bay Rats
Roving posses of business owners armed with ball bats

Meanwhile, on a bench nearby
Four more people are mugged at gunpoint
One girl is shot in the leg, another is severely pistol whipped
A friend’s car is stolen, for the second time

Oh Oakland, you asshole!
This is why we can’t have nice things


Hollie Hardy can teach you to survive anything. Her first collection of poetry, How to Take a Bullet, And Other Survival Poems, is currently looking for a home. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University, and teaches writing classes at both SF State and Berkeley City College. She is a core producer for the Beast Crawl literary festival in Oakland, co-host of Saturday Night Special, An East Bay Open Mic, co-curator of Litquake’s Flight of Poets, and a former Editor-in-Chief of Fourteen Hills: The SFSU Review. Her work has appeared in Eleven Eleven, sPARKLE & bLINK, The Common, Parthenon West Review, Transfer, Milvia Street, and other journals. She lives in Oakland, California.

photo by David Sifry