by Elizabeth Robinson
We miss the Oakland exit, rush haplessly forward—
as vaguely to the south, the stranded Princess Cruise Ship—and
onto the Bay Bridge, off on Yerba Buena, head
to Treasure Island.
“It’s landfill,” I tell him, “you wouldn’t want to be here
in an earthquake. The whole island
will liquefy.” “Liquify?”
“Melt,” I explain.
We drive past decrepit apartment complexes surrounded
by a churning bay. Great mountainous
humps of soil where developers, we guess, are
planning to build and make vast money.
March, somewhere between Oakland and San Francisco and a child in a
puffy parka and a hat with earflaps
tries to balance on a kiddie bike. We scramble
out on a rocky jetty,
walk back to the parking lot, look over an ersatz
chainlink . See: a caved in segment
of road filled with seawater. Corroded
pipes. As if
to warn us the instability is real, the road sags, lumps
up with asphalt patchwork.
Abandoned office building: broken windows, thrashed
blinds. Paint peeling off old
military buildings. “This is what I think Chernobyl
must look like.” “Yeah.” As we get ready
to leave, I say, “There’s a market? Let’s take a look.”
Inside we find what can’t be
found in Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco:
yogurt, bleach, fat
packages of tortellini, rows of toilet paper.
“Take only two,” a sign says,
but no one is taking even one. A man with a cane
wears a surgical mask
pulled down below his chin. We buy empty spray
bottles, yogurt. At the checkout
a man talks loudly, rolls his eyes at our full cart,
“They are making a big deal
over nothing. Nothing.” We let a woman with two
small items step ahead of us.
The grim-faced clerk does not make eye contact,
dutifully fills bags,
while the man talks on and on.
Elizabeth Robinson is the author of 16 books, most recently Rumor from Free Verse Editions/Parlor Press. She has been the winner of the National Poetry Series for Pure Descent (Sun & Moon), and the Fence Modern Poets Prize for Apprehend. Robinson’s mixed genre meditation, On Ghosts, was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award in Poetry. She is married to the poet Randy Prunty. Liz Baron is an artist and restaurateur who lives in Texas by way of New York City. She and her husband, Jim, founded, own and operate four Mexican-Southwestern restaurants. She got her Bachelor of Fine Art from Pratt Institute but stopped painting when restaurant work and family life consumed most of her time. She is grateful to the online art classes of Sketchbook Skool that helped her regain the joy of a regular art practice.