how many times / can a city take / the last things / an old black man has / on this earth? 

a tent / some tools / he was old and sick / in the hospital / unable to be by his home / and all the cops / and city saw / was an opportunity / to wipe another black man / off the face of the earth 

in front of his neighbors / whose homes were also under attack / black elders with families / who had their houses stolen / now steal to fill their belly holes in / to fill the 37 bullet holes / that Gee / a black mama and grandmama / has taken to the belly over the years / to feed her children 

we asked the city for time / they claimed they did not have / cuz they were in a rush to exterminate / the old man’s livelihood / cops trapped and removed me / while I tried to save / what I could of his belongings / the bulldozer fed / on the old man’s tent / another younger black man / packed what he could of his home / and scurried his life around the corner / til the metal trash tanks closed their jaws / and drove away 

this is what the city calls a safe work zone 

Gee and I cried / for the old man / cried that her home on wheels / was still standing 

Gee and I raged / over how the city never asks / how we got here / how the city never acknowledges / its complicity in stealing her family’s house / out from under them / how the city and cops came / to the door of her van / armed and ready to do it again / and thru our grief and rage / we laughed / 

over stories of tactics for killing rats / she described putting baking soda / into balls of peanut butter, / like city offers of shelters / we know to be prisons / cuz the only rats kept alive / are the ones that can be put in cages 

she shared how her auntie taught her / rats’ teeth / can’t handle tin foil / told her to roll it in a ball / and put it in the hole / like how the city throws cash / at cement legos / on public parking roads / to deter us from finding / safe refuge for our homes 

beaten, swept, and scattered away / our deaths cost more / than opening vacant buildings / thru eminent domain 

Gee found the rats / kept moving the ball out the way / bewildering / cuz she followed / her aunties instructions / to a “t” 

auntie said, / “I should have known / it was you I was talking to! / you have to fill the hole / not put it in all the way. / the rats must be having a rat conference laughing at you!” 

Gee and I laughed and laughed / and while laughing / I knew / she, the old man, / and I, / we are the rats / laughing too 

Jaz Colibri is a member of the Wood Street Community and a houseless trans organizer who provides mutual aid support to houseless communities experiencing evictions across occupied Huichin (Oakland).