Purple Reign

Red and blue lights flash together

Melding to purple as they come through the faux fine glass in our front door.

Nothing more common than a traffic stop,

Here where six lanes of Brush Street Parallel the chunk of I980

Connecting Grand with the Exit to Oakland for which we named our faux Victorian manse.

The state police – the highway patrol-  frequent the curb beneath our kitchen window for their traffic stops,

Bringing annoyed surprised abashed or sleepy drivers from the maze of concrete highways and onramps just down the road called, not surprisingly, “THE MAZE”

The supposition being that if they are hit by a bad driver here they will be going more slowly, not always a good supposition.

Our corner has an accident every month,

The overpass on 18th draws impatient drivers from uptown over one of  few passages over the freeway,

The light goes quickly from yellow to red, and the speeders coming off the freeway are caught by surprise,

So we hear the sound of sheet metal deforming quickly,

A garage door slamming in the middle of the street.

But the police never come for something as minor as an accident,

and the reign of purple lights has lasted to long.

I step out on my generous, old fashioned covered porch,

Three steps up from the litter on the sidewalk,

to see the OPD SUV blocking 18th at the East-South corner of  my house.

lights flashing their fancy and unmistakeable dance not quite in sychrony with another vehicle a block away in either direction.


Kristen, in her pastel blue flowered house dress is getting her phone from her van,

and one of the young officers , solicitously asks if we want to get out as I approach him.

He and his partner, both slightly above middle height, slim, fit, stand by their vehicle like valets in a parking lot,

casual and relatively alert, slightly more than the security guard at the 99c store, who actually is bothered by people.

Here, in the dark of the night, nobody stirs

Our neighbors in their two story  semi-Victorian two story duplexes and single family homes – this is a historical district with distinctive but not expensive architecture- have their lights out and are not stirring abroad in troubled times like the crazy old white man on the corner-

Evidently there is a suspect with a gun,\

But the officers seem relaxed enough that I assume it is at the other end of the block.

They chat amiably enough but are not forthcoming about details, except they agree with Kristen that I should repair to my lair.

I’m supposed to be getting sleep for a poetry marathon,

I hope i hope i hope.

The lights go on changing even though there is no traffic moving,

so for now there are no collisions at our corner, not tonight.

The three working street lights make the scene as bright as, well as bright as a semi-urban intersection late at night,

bright enough to show the variety in tone of the paint used to deface the graffitti on our neighbor’s plastic slats in their forbiddingly institutional chain link fence.

The air is quiet and a bit chill for August in California.

So it is not a long hot summer,

but as I reflect on the scene I see the two light skinned young men standing by their bloated shiny black vehicle, that one of them might have been one of the minority hires that Oakland has proudly hired, but neither of them was black like my neighbors, who have lived there 30 years and view the geriatrification of a couple of retired white folks moving in with friendly diffidence.

The purple light had its reign for some time afterwards, shining in through the front door as though Stevie Speilberg  had staged it, but no space craft landed,

This time,

Only the cheerful occupational forces of the local gov’t.






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