Oakland, tonight I swam in your streets and felt the cool of your night. I think to myself how I feel strong when the pull stroke feels easy, and think to memorize the tones of the sky at dusk when I pull to the side for air — half the sky a fading incandescent red, the other a fluorescent blue. I find, for a few moments of grace that people shimmer with a quiet mystery when they’re underwater, the light from the pool lamps refracting, flexing, arcing over their bodies. To you, Oakland, I feel a sense of sheepishness, I
confess it’s taken me years to learn to love you and I realize it’s because I’m still guarded when I’m around you. It’s taken time to understand why the bus lady sings bluesfully to herself at the stop. She does not want your change, but she wants you to recognize her and see her, approach her and hold her. You too have a dual personality, you like your sister are hot and cold. Your people struggle up against each other and quarrel, I remember how Pancho would come back to our steps every night after we told him to leave—no disrespect, he insisted—but we’d start up all over on the same note. You’re my partna right? Right, I’d say, knowing it to be the feeblest lie, and wondering if he was being facetious or if I was the most cynical man on earth. You’re my partna. Push and pull, push and pull. Oakland, I realize I still don’t
get you but I can’t let that get me down, because I still sense the electric buzz in your veins, and I have that freeze frame photo of the shimmer during that swim. I still have the sensation of lingering night warmth from the soil after a hot day and the small-sensation I get standing under the expanse of your patchquilt sky.