This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features a poem by Christopher Soto. 


Oakland, Cal.

7:00AM                         I wake with no sleep. Yellow tape is wrapped around my block.
                                          Tony died. Bullet holes in the car windows. Glass on the floor.

9:00AM                         I have a panic attack while driving to work. All the windows open
                                          Inside of me. Can’t find my breath. Too much wind.

1:00PM                         The horses go running through my mind. My student says
                                          She wouldn’t believe police if they told her the sky is blue.

6:00PM                         Home isn’t safe but it’s the only place to go. Children jump hop-
                                          Skotch near used needles.

11:00PM                       A woman is jumped on the sidewalk. Crush is the sound of head on
                                          Concrete. I hear a man yell “You got a gun? You got a gun!”

11:30PM                       To avoid stray bullets I push my furniture against the window then
                                           Drop my mattress onto the floor. [What is a dream but the place we
                                           Both meet? I keep having nightmares].

10:00AM                       Javier isn’t answering his phone. Jorge says that gentrification
                                           Leads to increased police presence. I’m why he died.

1:00PM                          Am I allowed to write this poem?
                                           Sorrow feels like an iceberg // floating alone into the sea.

8:00PM                          Heaven never felt so far.



Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).