What happened to Berkeley?

A poem about gentrification and Berkeley

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Photo by Chronis Yan on Unsplash

The eucalyptus,
the interloper,
is handsome anyway.
Wanted or not,

he compels my attention
with his cool, smooth bark
or bark-less bark, really.

He has no bark, this
specimen. He is all
bone. Green, glowing,
pristine,

he vaults from the ground,
the grandest
tree on the block,
and the most offensive.

Insouciant, vibrant
vigorous
breathtakingly tall
undeniably sexy.

Yet somehow cold
and somehow ugly,

like the house
behind me, at my
back. The house across
from the luminous,
arboreal specimen.

It is dark, squat,
the opposite really, yet
just as ominous.

It portends something
new for this street,
this town,
this time.

You see, it is somehow
threatening, this new
style of house at
my back.

I know it.
The little bird knows it.
The pedestrians —
they know it.
We all know it.

For it skulks,
and it stinks
of money. Heaps
of money. A sleek,
expensive BMW
owning the driveway.

Like the house itself,
the Beemer sits close
to the ground like a
fat spider ready to
pounce.

(Do spiders pounce?
I think they
can. Yes. This is that.)

This house. Cool, dark,
ever so moneyed. Hushed.
It tries to blend in.
But it is too flawless.

Pristine. Perfect. Perfectly
remodeled, tightly clad in narrow
shingles, sheathed liberally
in luscious, mink-brown paint.

It’s charcoal-grey,
impossibly sleek car
in the driveway.
It scares me,
Money as black as this.

And it draws me.
Of course it does.
Keenly.

I can’t pretend
I wouldn’t do
the same thing were
I gifted with a
fortune small or
large.

I can’t
pretend I wouldn’t
also use the money.
Maybe even in
Berkeley.

Times. They change.
Berkeley can’t always
be magic, will-o’-the-wisp,
fairies, bubbles, ribbons
protests, the mystic
and the fanciful.

It can, clearly it is,
fast becoming
elegant. Austere. Moneyed.

I still like to think
my rich house, however,
would be different.
Sweet. Pretty. Homey.
Warm. Mysterious. Playful.

Berkeley. A feeling of
Berkeley in its bones.
A native redwood tree
at its corner. A creek
running across its back
garden, trilling with
delight.

Writer, copywriter, editor, and word lover. Subscribe to my newsletter at christywhite.substack.com

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