Poems in a Summer of Violence

Poet, Ruben A. Barron just moved back to downtown San Jose after graduating from UC Santa Cruz, and the inspiration for his first set of poems in the weeks he’s been back are telling of the violent moment San Jose is in - seven people killed in 4 weeks.


I almost forgot the sound sirens make
It's been that long—
That unnerving flash through the alley screaming

I can see into the kitchen
My mom is making an upside-down pineapple cake
Pipes rumble from the water pressure

Police choppers vulture for someone their skylights can't spot
Toro stands to attention, his tail straightens
His shoulders square, head forward

He runs the perimeter of the backyard
The same way he always has
He doesn’t bark... everything is alright

The skylights hubble into the backyard, over the garden
Flowers and bushes start to part
I can feel the gusts from the blades

The oven opens
The sweet golden air of hot buttered pineapple...  


The people keep Benito’s vigil up
A flower dies in a vase on the steps
A candle with the Virgin burns out
It gets maintained
They shoot up the vigil
It gets maintained
The vigil for Benito
He died on these steps
Kids rolled up on him and shot him down
He was trying to see his baby daughter

Stuffed animal memorial 


there are two elementary schools at opposite sides of my block and liquor stores at all three corners. the city put in a stoplight at the corner of the liquor store where I saw a man and his wife pay for milk with pennies. the light is supposed to slow the traffic coming from the freeway. two of our cars have been hit three times by drunk drivers. we weren't the only ones. a little boy was killed at that corner. they never found the driver. on a post, a poster with the batsignal says “stop observe.” below, the ground is full of stuffed animals no one cleans. amassing layers of dust and grime slowly dry over the stuffed animals, fur ambered with crust and sun, tied by failing ribbons holding the moment together.

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so as a fellow UCSC graduate and who also lives on Vine Street, this is probably the worst description of a beautiful working class community like Vine street while writing in a style that seems to perpetuate violence by assuming things haven't changed. Vine street isn't the ghetto or gangster; it's working families getting by how they can but proud of the homes and families they have. You got to open your eyes and your mind and get out and walk around, smile and say hi to the locals. You got to watch for the signals and the signs and not just sit around observing people like they're a petri dish. Where are the multitude of different coloured rose bush's in people's yards, the bright lights of the ferris wheels and the laughter of children coming from the church parking lot, the awkward stumble and friendly smiles as you try(and comically butcher) your way through ordering a meal while speaking in spanish, and the knowledge that we have and always will have the best fireworks show in all of town?

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