This poem is in reaction to a mural at the Bon Air Shopping Center in Marin. My friend, Susan Barnes, wrote a great article called “Mural So White” in the Jewish Journal about it. The shopping center responded that they used white folks so as not to accidentally stereotype. I think the “Seeds of Peace” mural in Fairfax proves you can show diversity without stereotyping. Hire a different artist if they can only make white people, and please, take down this unrealistic piece of advertising. It doesn’t even reflect the customer base seen while briefly strolling the shopping center.
So in this post, a poem and photos of both. Thank you, Susan, for using my photo in your article.
To the Merchants of Bon Air
While out walking in Marin
in your lovely shopping center, then,
one of my good friends spotted a sin.
A giant mural with only white folks in.
This is not the kind of world we live in
nor should it be for artists and merchants alike a valid vision.
All kinds of folks live in Marin.
As an artist, I would say to you then
please in the future consider what your pictures are really saying
for to a person of color this is isolating.
The utopian mural in Fairfax is a far more accurate depiction of reality,
as by only showing white folks,
this is no “Fresh New Look”
but an idea that’s getting old, you see.
It’s not what it’s trumped up to be.
Even passing through for mere groceries
was a rainbow of humanity.
If this mural doesn’t disappear, oh, merchants of Bon Air,
Bon voyage! No longer shopping there,
even for want of kosher variety on Passover.
“Headline Antidote” is my favorite poem that I have ever written, and is published in the book, Poet Loiterer. It is an attempt to answer the question what can regular folks do in a painful world with so many negative headlines except to be a rebel in favor of goodness. It’s one of my favorites to perform, and I have at many places, including at the Vallejo Man March on March 12, 2016, and the 2nd Rodef Sholom Beit Cafe in December 2015.
“Headline Antidote” also won 5th place in Any Other Poetry at the 2016 Marin County Fair.
Be a rebel for righteousness,
a leader for love,
a troublemaker for the truth,
not a hawk, but a dove!
More than one way to be human,
so many ways to understand.
Join all your hands together,
and march across this land.
Be an agitator for awesome,
a hustler for the heart,
an outcast for open-mindedness,
whatever you do – just start!
More than one way to be an American.
Patriotic pacifists-no weapons in our hands!
Here’s to building better times!
Yes, you know that we can!
These are two poems that I wrote in response to the ORCEM/VMT issues in Vallejo, CA.
I read the second one to the city council and a group of about 200 citizens on January 5th, 2016, among several citizens and Fresh Air Vallejo activists who spoke out. (If you’re so inclined to watch the video, it’s about 58 minutes in.) I believe our town deserves better.
Break Out Your Duster
I saw the good people of my city today.
On the steps of the city hall, they gathered.
They chanted, “orcem, orcem, go away.
We don’t want you in our city by the bay.”
The big cement company and its dust,
Aren’t a company that we can trust.
They claim in their adverts it’s all green,
Talking all progress and growth again,
While leaving out pollution from their scenes.
Promising only a couple hundred jobs,
While from our lungs, the air they’ll rob.
A couple hundred salaries it ain’t worth.
Risking 118,000’s health is far worse.
And underneath all that cement dust,
Laid a serious breach of community trust.
When the people of my city found out,
They took to the streets with a shout.
It was time to hold a recall for Mayor,
Because he’d become a betrayer.
This city, here, well, it deserves better,
Than back room deals for the highest bidder.
None of this poem is written in cement,
Only just giving my two cents.
This is no time to sit on the fence.
If you agree, voice your dissent.
This Project’s a Lemon: Sweep Em Out!
In this city of opportunity live workers and dreamers
propelling us forward as an artistic, successful place,
one of community, happy families, and open space.
What I can’t understand is why you won’t stick to that plan?
Your dusty cement plant scheming
needs to be swept right out of here.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m pro-union,
pro-high-wage-jobs for this city’s peoples,
but this greenwashed pollution ain’t the solution
if you give a hoot about our schools, homes, and steeples.
A few jobs aren’t worth risking the lungs of our young ones.
Now with all due respect, I gotta ask what the heck?
This secret back room dealing just ain’t right,
and the good folks of this town will give you a fight
in the courts or by ballot boxing.
See the people with their protest signs,
asking you to follow the voters’ designs, or maybe resign.
If you’d like to stop this city hall circus,
then please, just follow the voter’s choices,
and listen to all of our voices.
We didn’t elect you to abuse our trust,
so please listen because it seems that you’ve lost us.
If you work in the shadows, you’ve got to recuse.
because if you go against the will of we the people,
you’re just bound to lose.
This morning I am walking, walking,
walking slowly accompanying the sunrise
as it softly enters the San Francisco skyline.
Walking, walking with freedom in my heart,
wondering as I’m wandering if dreams really do come true.
Some days you are living poetry bringing joy
as you walk along singing without sound
without a care in the world who might see and laugh
because you are embodying pure joy as the music
drowns out the roar of traffic across the bridge,
and the whirlwind of self-doubt in your head
caused by uncontrollable cascades of life’s pain
disappears into the sea like the sailboats on the horizon,
and even though it may return in the darkest hours
for now there is only you in sync with songs in your heart
and in this moment, that is all that matters.
We found the best parking spot in the universe.
on the edge of the bay in Berkeley.
The sunlight glistens across the waters
as the sailboats proclaim freedom.
The rush of the city is visible in the distance,
and we are directly across from the Golden Gate,
viewing the chain links that tie this broad community:
From the city of my dreams,
to the city of my Jewish soul,
to the beaches of my inner explorer,
to the epic Mecca of hippiedom,
to the city of protests,
to the city where I occupied,
to the city of opportunity,
to the wine fields and the growing grass,
to the happy cows and hippie souls.
I see you all from this place,
hearing the train whistles of my past,
and the oceans in my future.
where even the graffiti is friendly,
where the few billboards you see
are messages of positivity.
This poem was published as a part of Look Ma! No Hands! If you dig it, please support the author, and grab a copy!