Journalism In Verse

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Every Breath in Oakland

in Ghost Ship/Obituaries by

Breath escapes our mouths
like music
because every breath
exhaled in Oakland is
a funeral song.

Air this week
is cruel and
disproportionate
in its
allotment.

Like everything else
young artists
need in this city
to carry on
breathing

it is
scarce, impure
and
invisible.

And now among us
some breathe
none at all.

I listen to my friends
singing remarks
into the blank air—

I was on my way there,
weren’t you on your way there?

It could have been us.
It was us.

This wasn’t just a single friend.
Everyone I know is gone.

In this way
breath pours out from us
of its own
ghostly volition.
Intones notes
of anguish
thick as smoke.
Knows no reason.
Makes song for those
there and
not there.

For the first time,
we all agree,
we can taste so much air.


Elle Aviv Newton is a poet, editor, art critic and journalist. She is a fourth-generation native of Oakland, California where she is writer-in-residence at B4BEL4B Gallery. Newton holds degrees in art history and history from Mills College and has lived in numerous cities around the world including Bangkok where she founded the Krung Thep Poetry Circle. She is coëditor and cofounder of Poets Reading The News.

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