Photo by Wendy Wei from Pexels

How We Live Now

Two weeks after the
Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting
we visit our
Oakland neighborhood’s
World Music Festival

we’re strolling between the art
and T-shirt booths,
smelling smoked ribs and sausage,
when our 11-year-old son asks,
“What if somebody starts shooting?”

then runs off with his friend
to a funky sunglasses booth
without waiting to hear
my mumbled reply

something about long odds
and the importance
of looking both ways
when crossing the street.


I chew on his question
while sitting on the curb
with my BBQ chicken

but it’s tougher than the meat
and won’t go down
as easily.


After lunch
we walk to the main stage

a seven-piece band
is laying down
trippy Afro-Caribbean
Jimi Hendrix grooves

a guest singer
–a young woman from Mali,
new bride of the bass player–
beats on a gourd
and wails in a tongue
none of us understand

she comes down from the stage
moves her hips
into the crowd
still pounding on the gourd

and we watch
as a few dozen Oaklanders
of a few dozen skin colors
try to follow along
to the rhythmic padding
of her feet

and for a few minutes
we forget to worry

about everything.

Scott Waters is a poet and songwriter living in Oakland, California. He has an M.A. in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University. Scott has published previously in The Santa Clara Review, The Pangolin Review, Amethyst, Ink in Thirds, A New Ulster, Verse-Virtual, and NatureWriting.

Subscribe To Newsletter
Be the first to get latest updates and exclusive content straight to your email inbox.
Stay Updated
Give it a try, you can unsubscribe anytime.