Hour One August 5 Morning Dawns in Oakland California

01 2017 poetry marathon

August 5, 2017, morning dawns in Oakland
by Paul Robert Sanford

The lights are coming on in the tall buildings.
A few cars rush past on their way to wherever people go at dawn.
One dark charcoal colored SUV leads the way turning left onto 17th
headed for the cluster of tall buildings.
Red lights blink on the twin towers of the Federal Building.

Chill air drifts in the open window,
whispering pasts my bare legs.
Moist inside my heavy coat
I watch the dawn slip in,
the rheostat turned ups slowly
as the dark of night does its warm up exercises
for the blazing heat of noon.

The earliest buses blunder past
on their way to meet people starting their day.
A truck crosses an overpass at 14th street.
The gray web of sleep lifts from both the city
and my senses, but so slowly, so slowly.

Lights are on in the Federal Building now
scattered across its warm sandstone facade.
In DC it the work day started minutes ago
our government at work making conference calls
sending and acknowledging faxes,
kicking off the West Coast in the middle of the sleeping city.

Still no lights in any of the houses I can see.
Strange that there would be more bustle at midnight than at dawn
here on the edge of Uptown,
the crossing place between residential and the hard cold streets
where, on the other side of I980
the Greyh(o)und (B)US terminal shows its wounded sign
and the security guards wake the sidewalk sleepers.
Old highways converge at complex angles,
and tucked away are coffee shops and old dive bars,
trendy brave new little restaurants and refurbished clubs.
New construction of classy apartments with balconies,
maybe some condos, although those are usually upgrades of old apartments.

The olive drab jagged outlines of the conifers across Brush street
mark a line of nature fighting for its space in the city,
blending with the soft gray of the blurry sky.
As the second cement truck of the day rumbles past,
swirling its slurried load,
the broadleaf trees shine out with lighter colors against the conifers.
The growing light rounds out the shape of the evergreens.
The ivy at its foot is a ripple of shadow and color.

Across the freeway the trashy apartment building
proudly shows its gigantic graffiti letters
a short row of gabled vintage houses watches the mean streets over there
one is getting an upgrade as the pockets of poverty gentrify.
But still there are no lights in their windows
or in the windows of my neighbors across the street.

The traffic light is green for the cars that go rolling down brush.
A red hand stops pedestrians who have not been savvy enough
to push the button.
Nobody is walking on the sidewalk.
The liquor stores are closed,
the recycling centers have not opened.
The light changes and an elderly sedan growls awake on 18th
and mutters through the intersection.

They gray city poises and stretches,
preparing for the 2000 cars that will pass my house at rush hour,
stopping to growl and fret and check the time
when the light turns red,
the flow of traffic so thick nobody can get up to speed.
For now, even the single cars roll quietly past
headed somewhere to turn on the lights.

The daylight on the federal building has softly grown
to the point that I can no longer tell which windows are lit
and which are dark, because the contrast of dark and light has switched.

A fruit fly ambles about in the air around my face,
my legs are chilled, feet cold,
a ring of sweat forms under my thick heavy coat collar.
I taste the stale coffee in my mouth.
Time to dress and perform my morning ablutions,
start my own day.
My neighbors will have to wake up without my supervision.

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