The Greatest City In America by Alain Ginsberg

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The Greatest City In America

We are not fast walkers,
                              cross walk stoppers,
                              or look left then righters,
and if you hit us with a car
you better kill us, or we will give you
a fucking problem. WELCOME,
to the greatest city in america,
or so says the benches.
Home of the big rats, land
of the push it under the rugs.

People always ask if it’s like The Wire
and yes, it’s like The Wire, I mean
no, it used to be like The Wire
but everything that was The Wire is being
wound and bound up, boxed and collected
to be thrown to the east, or west, or south,
because the only Open Walls in Baltimore
are reserved for artistic imports being used
to bring gentrifying hands in to choke out
any last breath before Charles Village is
strangled and reupholstered,
to make those benches a little less
of a joke. To make those benches,
a little less of someone’s home.

People tend to say it must be dangerous
living amongst
addicts and thieves,
but no, we’re not all addicts
or thieves, and no, we’re not
dangerous either.
We do, however, know the sight of danger
and are friends with the addicts we know.
This is Smalltimore, where the enemy
of my enemy is someone I do not know,
but five or ten people I do
know them perfectly.

This city is not mine though,
I am as much of a cause of gentrification
as I am against it, a transplant
of already damaged goods.

There is roughly 13,000
abandoned buildings in Baltimore,
and nearly 5,000 homeless in the city
annually. But people don’t talk about that.
And if they did more,
I would call those numbers too low
to mean anything.
I would say there’s a one legged man
that frequents the blocks between
Penn Station and my college campus.
He’s living on kindness and sympathies,
and mine never came with a dollar sign
but I shared lunch with him
and he told me about his brother,
stabbed to death twenty years ago,
how there was no funeral, no buried remains to place make peace with.
But people wouldn’t attend that funeral anyways,
they don’t talk about names that aren’t headlines like
          George King
          Anthony Anderson
          Tyrone West
          Freddie Gray
          Mya Hall
Because those names are as close to HBO that they can get
without taking an actual stand
when I had to leave, he said “god bless”
and I’m not a religious person but I know
the power of getting by, and we all
are getting by. We are strength
under pressure, and we are all
constantly under pressure, under each
brick they continue to pave over top of us.

This, is Baltimore City.
Home of the blue light lullabies,
                              wired fences,
                              holding fast.
The greatest city in america, so says
the benches.

Alain Ginsberg

Alain Ginsberg is an agender writer and performer from Baltimore City, MD. Their work focuses on identity and the intricacies which create it for us. Alain has been an Individual World Poetry Slam competitor, Capturing Fire finalist, and has had their work featured in great weather for Media, Persephone’s Daughters, and Transcendence. :