Copper & Salt

Brennan DeFrisco


somewhere off 13

after the glitter of Piedmont

the streetlights resign themselves to darkness

cracked pavement makes its way up the block

an avenue of lots, abandoned by everyone

except the spray can

new tags over old ones, each cleaner

than the piece previous, recently displaced

by fresh paint

I make my way through a neighborhood

plagued by war


take your pick which one


I come upon a man

his coat, as aged as his face,

lurching over 23rd street

reaching for something

as I drove closer, I could see

the empty bassinet

he was rocking

putting to sleep some

demon or memory


as a half-smile crawled across his face,

I couldn’t tell if he was really happy

couldn’t tell if he was saying someone’s name

I couldn’t tell you much about him

but he held himself

the way one holds back tears


the years change like property value

Downtown has learned to shimmer

new real estate by Lake Merritt

apartments made unaffordable

to those who used to live here

they move across the jawlines of Oakland

like half-smiles

seeing their city as a vacant cradle

a different place than the one

they grew up in


Gentrification tastes like copper & Salt

a gutter filling with blood and tears

a fistful of Pennies thrown in an ocean of souls

the ghosts of a disappearing city

who no longer know the way home

only the smell of new paint

and the way changed things

are forgotten

Brennan DeFrisco is a poet, writer, spoken word artist & educator from the San Francisco Bay Area. He is the author of A Heart With No Scars (Nomadic Press) and co-author of Exquisite Duet (Hermeneutic Chaos Press), a collaboration with Allie Marini. He’s been a finalist at the National Poetry Slam, a finalist for the Drake University Emerging Writer Award and a semi-finalist for the Mary Ballard Poetry Prize. He is a California Poets In The Schools teaching artist and a performance coach for Poetry Out Loud. His work has been published in Words Dancejmww journalGemini and others. Brennan enjoys words & the way they move. He loves movies, poker, whiskey, Firefly, and Allie Marini more than you do. He is currently an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at Antioch University Los Angeles.