Journalism In Verse

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Afterward

in Ghost Ship/U.S. by

Afterward waking up to texts from my father begging me to tell him where I am.

Afterward scrolling through a Google Doc with the names of everyone that had attended our last art party.

Afterward messaging Chase again and again, where are you?

Afterward listening to news outlets pronouncing the Ghost Ship the deadliest structure fire in modern Californian history.

Afterward the journalist asking me again and again to identify where I lived, complaining How am I supposed to write about Oakland warehouses without knowing where you are?

Afterward watching Najee stand before the microphone at the candle-lit Lake Merritt vigil and declare, I am a multidimensional being, and I am no longer here. I am not here.

Afterward the Chapel of the Chimes filling with the sound of Chase’s music.

Afterward donating money to have him flown to Nicaragua to be buried alongside his brother. 

Afterward the sound of battered water pipes, ceaseless rainfall, and weeping spilling from every room in my house until spring comes.

Afterward no longer feeling young.

Afterward Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf issuing an executive order to work with warehouse tenants on safety issues without displacing them.

Afterward a San Francisco Chronicle headline describing the Ghost Ship’s owner Chor Ng as a ‘polite, hands-off landlord.’

Afterward Oakland rent prices rising to an average of $2,025 per month for a one bedroom apartment.

Afterward Castle Von Trapp getting evicted.

Afterward no longer feeling safe telling people where I live.

Afterward finding the number for a guy with a van so we could hide our mattresses there when the city inspectors came.

Afterward 1919 Market Street getting evicted.

Afterward an emergency fund giving us four exit signs, a roll-out ladder, three fire extinguishers, and seven smoke alarms.

Afterward Salt Lick getting evicted.

Afterward deciding to stop inviting people over for the time being.

Afterward learning the sprinkler system that the fire codes require us to install costs $50,000 and that our landlord refuses to pay for it.

Afterward 1218 Miller Avenue getting evicted.

Afterward reading that Uber is reselling the Sears building on Broadway for $200 million, double what it paid two years before.

Afterward 2306 Magnolia getting evicted.

Afterward every available sidewalk west of Telegraph Avenue sprouting with tents and tarps and cardboard signs.

Afterward artists leaving Oakland for Berlin and Sacramento and Los Angeles and New York and Vallejo after they couldn’t find affordable housing here.

Afterward a journalist calling me for a quote, because Ghost Ship’s lease-holder and the show’s organizer have been charged with 36 counts of involuntary manslaughter.

Afterward a report disclosing that landlord Chor Ng, never charged with a crime, is eligible to receive over $3 million in insurance payments from the fire.

Afterward Libby Schaaf proclaiming that Oakland was safer now than it was a year ago, with plans to hire twenty more fire inspectors by December 2018.

Afterward an investigation finding no evidence that the city’s approach to evicting tenants of underground warehouses has changed after the fire.


READ MORE

Evictions After Ghost Ship [East Bay Express]
One Year After Ghost Ship, Artists Struggle to Find Housing in Oakland [Los Angeles Times]


Elle Aviv Newton is cofounder and coeditor of Poets Reading the News. She is a fourth-generation native of Oakland, California.

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