Poems by neighbors:

An Ode to Nextdoor

Poetry series conceptualized by Sue Wilson based on Richmond Annex Nextdoor posts. 

Did you hear gunshots?
Did you hear gunshots?
I heard 30 shots in a row!
I heard the gunshots!
Why so many gunshots?
It's fireworks.
Fireworks sound like gunshots.
Why fireworks today?
Please stop fireworks
Please stop fireworks
Please stop fireworks
Please stop fireworks
Please stop fireworks
Please stop fireworks
For my dog
For my child
For veterans
—Sue Wilson
Libraries, Pools, Police
Library, library!
Community services
Pools pools pools
Richmond Plunge, no!
Say it ain’t so

It’s Tuesday: let’s get loud
Write to the city or sit on hold for hours at a time.
Not just for the books, for the community

At risk people
People of color
People of privilege
Young people
Old people

Fund services, fund people
Fund police but only those who protect and serve
—Laura Thomas
Bikes on Bridge
How many bikes were on the bridge today?
I counted 7
only 7
Here's a picture of me
on my bike
on the bridge
with the cars behind me
Here is a picture of me
in my car
on the bridge
with the bikes behind me
Oh how I hate the cars/bikes
How many bikes were on the bridge today?
Today there were more
Today was a Saturday
Saturdays don't count
—Sue Wilson
Was that an earthquake?
I felt it.
I did too.
I didn't.
My husband felt it, but I didn't.
It woke me up!
Me too!
I slept right through it!
But I'm a good sleeper.
I read it was a 4.2.
I read it was a 3.7.
It woke me up!
Did anyone just feel an earthquake?
—Jenifer MacGillvary
They are over my house!
Burlingame and Carlson!
They are over MY HOUSE TOO!
Stockton and San Pablo!
—Barium Abdott and Sue Wilson

Sunflowers, anyone?
Tomato plants?
Fig cuttings?
How about some lemons?
Gazillions of lemons!

We’re all in this together,

Free furniture, anyone?
A bed?
Camping gear?
Model airplanes?

What’s mine is yours,

Outside in the street
Slink mysterious black cats
Stealing into kitchens
Stalking chickens
Startling at fireworks.

Chalk art everywhere
Stay strong
Stay safe
Save our libraries
Slow our streets
Black Lives Matter!
—Karen Franklin
my cat is missing!
my cat is missing!
look for my cat!
found: cat
is that your cat?
it's not my cat.
is that her cat?
it's not her cat.
why did you let your cat out?
why did you ask that?
my cat is missing
—Sue Wilson
Questions *Only* Nextdoor Can Answer
(Richmond Annex Version/COVID-19 Era)
What's that smell?
Do you smell that?
What's burning?
Why the helicopter?
Why the police cars?
Was that an earthquake?
Gunshots or firecrackers?
Have you seen my cat?
Is this your chihuahua?
Is there toilet paper?
How long is the line to get inside?
Are people wearing masks?
Why aren't people wearing masks?
—Sue Wilson

Berkeley Hills Nextdoor
Save the Eucalyptus trees!
Save the Eucalyptus trees!
Save the Eucalyptus trees!
I lost my cat
I need an au pair
For my cat
I found my cat!
In a Eucalyptus tree
Hiding from the people
Walking in my neighborhood
Have you seen them?
They look like they don't belong here.
—Rani Sanghera
BLM @ TJ's
Black lives do not matter at Trader Joes.
Black lives do not matter at Trader Joes.
I will never again buy those O's.
Because black lives do not matter at Trader Joes.
They sent home the lady with the BLM mask.
They sent home a lady with a BLM mask?!
She works there! She wore it!
So let's not shop at Trader Joes.
You cannot wear stuff like that to work
No visible logos of any sort
I work in retail and
You represent the company so
You cannot wear stuff like that to work
What if someone wears a Trump hat?
What if someone wears a Trump hat?
Will free speech apply when
Someone wears a Trump hat
To work at Trader Joes?
Ok, no logos
No logos
No logos
No logos
—Sue Wilson

Our Neighborhood
(Haikus inspired by Richmond Panhandle)
Flys swarming dog poop 
Handcrafted masks discared
Blooms abound; trash too 
'Copter up ahead
Protest from my bed! Stole a car?
Binoculars please
—Laura Thomas

Poetry by: 

Tarnel Abbott

The Invisible Library

When the library is invisible we do guerilla story time
I dreamed I saw Ms. Sheila doing story time
inside the Bayview Branch Library
an endangered library located in a poor community of color
a branch library which serves mostly children
We reclaim the space because the heart needs to share whatever we have
this sustains us because in the gut we know that it is all of us or none of us
When there is no bread in the store we learn how to bake
When there is no yeast we learn how to make it
When flour is a scarce - the first one to find it, shares it
when access to fresh vegetables is limited
as we strive to limit our exposure in a world rife with COVID 19
we make victory gardens popular again
As neighbors we exchange plants, seeds, produce
we are the pioneers of a new lifestyle
lowered expectations
when the global pandemic and the resulting
global capitalist economic system collapses
(we are now in free fall)
how will we know how to do anything when there are no teachers, no internet,
no electricity
no books

When the library is invisible
we do guerilla story time
this is how we reclaim the power
you better save the damn books
how else will we know how to save ourselves
or why we should even bother

—tarnel abbott 6/7/20 (revised 6/8)

A Book is Not the Same as a Piece of Furniture

It's like an echo from the past
saving the library
an SOS from the heart
of the community
because a book is not the same as a piece of furniture

It transmits culture, history, values
the thoughts of human beings from one to another

Across time
Across borders
Across religions

It is where our heritage is kept, our cultures
our collective memories

The purges have harmed us
we have lost voices we needed to hear
we can recall Alexandria

we can read Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451
the Codex of Banned Books

Understand that books throw us a lifeline in dark times
that libraries matter even in, or especially in
the midst of a pandemic

—tarnel abbott 5/27/20
Poetry by:

Louise Moises

Padlocked Library

Small child in denim overalls, clutching a picture book, pushes his nose to the glass, rattles the locked door, and worries the edges of the white sign posted there.
Man covered in grim, leans his bicycle against the rack walks up to the door and peers in. He can see the table where he always sits, where, when his eyes get heavy, he lays his head on his elbows.
Teenager with an assignment, and a broken computer, violently shakes the handle of the locked door, swears loudly through the crack, turns his back on another failure of the adult world.
Mother pushing a stroller, anticipating a few minutes of calm, hoping to select a small pile of books to bring home, even though most will not get read. Her face reflected in the glass, inside darkness. No movement towards an opening.
Elderly woman with effort moves her walker up the slight incline. Refuge from loneliness, adjusts her lens-scratched glasses, reads message on the door. She calculates the years she has been coming here, before the time of canes and walkers.
Children’s librarian sits on the grass, a pile of picture books on a blanket, a clutch of upturned faces wait for her to begin, wondering why they are outside and not in the cozy little library.
An activation of neighbors line up in cars, signs posted on vehicles, in yards, on web sites:
The small child, the man on the bicycle, the angry teenager, the mother with the stroller, the elderly woman, the children’s librarian wait outside the padlocked door. 
—Louise Moises

Poetry by:

Dorothy Gilbert


In a library
books have been put up like summer fruit
and vegetables. Stored for us, harvests all tidy
row after row, all in a row, but inside,
concentrated, maybe
not tidy at all. Flavors you love,
flavors you never knew before, that you could never
imagine. Some will change
your constitution, make you do things
you were sure you couldn’t. You’re different now. Whether
you’re small or tall, whatever you look like, you expect
stairways, open places. Who would shut that off,
tell us it’s money we have to think about, important things
like more police. Our streets are dangerous! We can have
libraries later. Well,
who needs food anyway?
—Dorothy Gilbert

Shut in

shut in.
Friend, I can barely see you on the Zoom,
lean close, so I can see your face.
Now you show up in a gallery--they call it that--
rows of tiny pictures of tiny people.
Oh, it's communal, I tell myself,
really, it is! There's an untidy head
I know so well; there's a sleek head
I envy; there's The Stare
boring into me. And one bored, asleep;
he can't kid himself and think this is connection.

Later I'll think we talked, you talked to me
then remember no, it was your shadow, reflection,
mock-up. Life second-hand.

I pick up my cat. She's real.
How plushy and warm she is, my black velvet girl.
Outside In the backyard, delphiniums stand taller than I.
Purple, dark blue, blue, blue, a high blue stairway. Up!
Maybe things will get better. There'll be wine, coffee, duck a l'orange, pizza
shared; faces close--you could touch them across the table---
—Dorothy Gilbert

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