Eviction- Video Poem about San Francisco Gentrification

Though technically not from the ACT UP archives, I’m posting this clip as it fits in with ACT UP’s themes of working in coalition and resistance to oppression. Poet Neeli Cherkovski’s “Eviction: One More Beautiful Day” is a powerful evocation of what’s being lost in the rise of greed and evictions in San Francisco. It’s also a testament to the spirit of those citizens who continue to protest the unstoppable corporatization of the city. Inspired by Neeli’s poem, I sought to bring his words to life on the streets of the city, through the voices of friends active in challenging the economic forces responsible for selling out the soul of San Francisco.

Eviction: One More Beautiful Day

one more beautiful day
in the City of San Francisco
with its bridges and the bay
famous cuisine and picturesque
Chinatown, sprawling park
with green lawns…

a new layer of fog
mantled over Twin Peaks
to the trolley tracks on Market
five gulls tackled by a steady breeze

perfect hour for an eviction
a clear, stern decision handed down
on a quiet avenue where the Google Bus purrs cat-like, contented
picking up young crusaders
with matching back packs, newly armed

the gulls hardly notice as the buses
pull out for a green campus to the south

eviction –
an elder? a family?
single mother? houseful of orderlies? the
clerk who hands out change at the local market?

four gulls circling the intersection
and then a sky of crows,
avian order quite sublime
under a veneer of cumulus,
the city still has skunks and badgers,
feral cats, coyote

thousands and thousands
replaced by monolithic technology

ah, there’s no turning back – architects
feast on air rights

oh San Francisco,
once the city of poets

Presidio swept clean – museums expanded –
old hotels purified of the poor, shadows vaulted
into unknown precincts beyond the gate
picture pristine and proper neighborhoods
enjoy sterile rows of research and development –
learn to live forever and never face decrepitude –

a new breed of chefs
concoct salmon salad on an arugula bedding,
Zinfandel secreted in a rib eye steak –
wine bars where the decision-makers
nod as the wine is poured, sloshed in a glass,
yes excellent

attend the symphony gala
as the vulnerable sink, as many go hungry
in a grid of wealth, in a town of banks
and commerce

dispossession is a misery the rich do not need to see,
they may root for the Giants – take pride in the signs
of progress – hit the ball out of the park
and hearts swell past a vacated room that once gave shelter

those of you who must go
leave in silence, please make the premises
clean as you walk out of the front door,
don’t steal anything

lost, dizzied by unfeeling hands
you may walk for a moment
in the glorious neighborhoods
soon to be renamed, the Mission now the Quad,
all the cafes shaped like laptops
for the divine children of privilege
you may stay for a moment
but then you must leave, vanish

gulls come out of the fog
with bracelets of air on their claws
and the crows have re-grouped
a civil city no more

Neeli Cherkovski
© April 2014

2 thoughts on “Eviction- Video Poem about San Francisco Gentrification

  1. Incredibly moving expression by Neeli and beautifully read by Mira, Victoria Grace and Anabelle highlighting the loss of the soul of the City by the Bay.
    Visual imagery potent to anyone who cares about those evicted, displaced and ignored by a city of wealth. Yet is the pride gone?
    Thank you all for sharing your time, thoughts and talents with those of who who do care!

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