Brooklyn Apartheid

there is an block in brooklyn off the C train
– that place where i am learning how
to build home out of potlucks, frantic conversations
at parties (what is your name? what do you do?
will you love me?)
second hand smoke with far too many tofudogs and fake glasses —
where we talk about how different we are from
all of the other white people in our neighborhood
use our skins as masks
as we rob the banks right beside them

last night an elderly black man banged on our door
told us that he heard us booming every night that the
rent was so high right! that we are lucky he hasn’t called
the cops right! so we turned off the music and our naiveté
said sorry, promised we’d be more considerate next time.

we tucked ourselves into our beds refusing to think about
who slept in these rooms before we stole them and called them home
the violence of falling in love with something that does not belong to you
how do we remember a connectivity before possession?
in this neighborhood of haunted houses where memories are erased
not only because we whitewashed them from the streets
but because we hid them behind
new coffee shops and vegan diets forgot that we left
them there to
wilt alone

i do not know my neighbor’s name
like i do not know the name of the woman at the laundromat
who folds her clothes next to me like i do
not know the names of the black men who gawk
at me when i walk home wearing gender like
a foreign language like i do not know the name of the man
i saw get stopped by six police but i wish i did.

even though i would not have asked him at the corner market
his body only noticeable when it is being locked up
a handcuff is a border between invisible and compassion
these anonymous face, these walking statistics
only noticeable when they are painted on murals after they
have already been exterminated, what i mean is
gentrification is a neighborhood wide pest surveillance program
administered by the police and sometimes i do not know
if i am being chased or running after someone else (?)

last week an officer tipped his hat at me as i sped out of
the train directly to my home, my queer convenient for his
language of racism: screams protect me from the
black men on the corner, screams my gender is a property
along with my iPhone and my bed (protect me), screams
what is the irony of a queerness that gentrifies?
of a brown that colonizes?
of a radical that knows the names of theorists but
not her own neighbors?
a theory is a border between two beating hearts

and i want to tell the
man downstairs that i spent my summer
in palestine and there was a wall
that split villages, families, gardens, and sometimes
even hearts but it followed me across the ocean
and divided these five boroughs like a fractured
lung and when you say our rent is high what
i think you mean is we are having trouble breathing
in this city where there is a wall in-between manhattan
and brooklyn
like ramallah and jerusalem
in order for there to be a good city there has to be a bad ghetto
for every western nation, a backwards third world
for every white prep school kid smoking pot, a black criminal
for every gay victory, a brown death

but we do not talk about it because there is a wall
that has divided our tongues and built conversations like the
highways in israel, i mean the US, that make you feel like nothing is
wrong simply because we are taking the route
they built for us

there is a wall in the most intimate parts of us:
there is a border in-betweeen the strangers on subways
there is a border in-between you and me
an apartment floor is a border between potential friends

so apartheid
is not just our rent prices or wall street is the silence between neighbors
it is the distance between “hello” and “how do you do?”
it is the fact that we
ran away to this city like all the other twenty something
year olds who party too late and too loud on your block
because we were trying to be free of something but
ironically we brought our borders with us that there is
no longer a space on this earth to be free because
we are merely hamsters running around in cages
finding ourselves confronted by walls that are even
more heartbreaking because we know that we
built them
ourselves.

 

You can follow Alok’s Tumblr, Returning the Gayze, to read more of their prepossessing poetry.

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