Barrio Muerto (Defector)

Barrio Muerto (Defector)

During the poetry reading
in the new artisanal soda shop in The Mission
on a block that’s had botox,
a block I no longer recognize,
a man with one leg
in madras shorts and a women’s cardigan
stopped in the doorway to listen.

A middle aged woman
in a gold lamé jacket
walked up to him,
her three-year-old daughter
holding her hand.

Ave. A & 10th St, 1982, photograph by Philip Pocock
Ave. A & 10th St, 1982, photograph by Philip Pocock

I saw him palm her cash,
slip her the bag,
a fluid transaction
you’d miss if you
hadn’t seen it so many times,

before he started off,
he shouted
“I LOVE YOU, BABY!”
at her back,
already most of the way
down the block.

The 49 hissed
as it rolled on down Mission,
I looked back around
at the clean, educated faces inside,

thought about my new job in marketing,
about the diploma I’d worked so hard for
coming in the mail,
remembered that crack park by the McDonald’s
across the street from the police station
on Turk & Fillmore,
the breakfasts at Glide Memorial,

and wondered about
the choices I’ve made.

-Joel Landmine