Great poem from Devorah Major

Manilatown’s poetry event this past weekend, “Rhymes and Rhythms” was food for the soul. I felt the spirit of my Uncle Al and Bill Sorro in the room as poets spoke about breaking down walls that keep us trapped, alienated from community. Devorah Major blew me away with the poem below…it speaks volumes about the city. It’s beautiful when the poet captures what you feel…and puts it into a song that feels like it was written for just you in mind. As a native of San Francisco, the poem illustrates how I feel when thinking of the city that has been home to my family for 4 generations.

City Scat
we come to this city

of concrete, brick

steel and toil

country people

knowing the earth

sea faring people

reading the tides

gambling people

holding jokers and spades

we come to this city

hard laughin’

weep sob wailin’

prayin’ celebratin’ people

bending and sweating

we come to

this hiss crack

slap snap

siren whirl


electric zip

and burn



bustling corners

banging our heads

against destiny

and crumbling

brick walls of confusion

we come to this city

that can cage us

enrage us

deny us

revile us

turn us

from friends and family

into prey and predator

we come to this city

this hip howl

she bop

da he bop

da we bop

bang clang

swinging city

and we name it ours

–devorah major

devorah major is the first North American African poet laureate of San Francisco. She is a novelist, poet, essayist and professor at the California College of Arts.


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