Journalism In Verse

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There Is No There There

in Obituaries by

“A 17-year-old girl was killed in Oakland—

Rain gathers on the roadway,
at that rippling
curb where circumstance
zebra-crosses fortune.

“shortly after performing a praise and worship dance—“

Ours is a city deadened to all
but its heavens; nerves
splay out in the water,
limp and deferring.

“at the funeral of two of her friends—“

In this whirling pool of
grit and incident,
I divine my reflection,
but I cannot see my face.

“14th and Harrison streets—“

Oakland is a word that
spills over the curb of our lips
like a poison for
the poor, the dark,
the feminine.

“Witnesses said there was some sort of fight in the street moments before—”

And to speak of silence,
to speak is senseless,
to speak at all, it seems,
is grave disservice.
But to ask is all I have:
Reginna, what pure gesture
can I divine?

“two men were seen shooting into a crowd—”

Morning rises and our city’s
bloodful bodies pass through
readied to expire, to fall
beneath the roadway into fog.

“both drowned in a Stanislaus County Reservoir—“

Our souls are mirrored below
in a drowning dance, red-
spackled  horizons from whom
speech is impossible.

” the argument erupted among a group of men playing dice—”

And to be in Oakland, is to
inhabit our especial duality:
We are each moment asking
our life’s permission from a bullet
that has not yet driven through.

“A lot of teens were hanging outside, all dressed in white—”

To speak of silence,
to speak is senseless,
to speak at all, it seems,
is grave disservice
but without speech,
what pure gesture
can we divine?

“She died a short time later—”

And I think somehow
there is no there there
ever since Reginna is not there.
Oakland, a city deluged under pavement,
roadway only, a passage place between
here and there.

 

_________

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 editor and cofounder of Poets Reading The News.

_________

Hours Before Her Murder, Reginna Jefferies Danced At Her Friends’ Funeral
[Ebony]

Girl Killed Attending Oakland Memorial Service For Drowned Boys
[NBC Bay Area]

6 Months Later, Reginna Jefferies’ Murder Remains Unsolved
[KTVU]

Reginna Jefferies Dance Studio Getting Final Touches
[KTVU]

Mother Pleads For Justice After Daughter Shot
[KTVU]

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