On Looking

by Tom Edelson

Links: Tom Edelson's home page; Tom Edelson's LiveJournal

In the summer of 1968, I arrived in Berkeley to begin graduate study in philosophy.  I rented an apartment in a building on Telegraph Avenue, the main street of a business district south of campus.  I didn't know it at the time, but this location would afford me an extra benefit: front-row seats for what came to be known as the "People's Park riots".

Every night this week, we sat on our front balcony
and watched police and protestors chase each other back ond forth:
tides on Telegraph.
If the tear gas got too bad, we ran inside.
If not, we might remain on watch
until our watches told us that the time was near for News at Ten.
Then, of course, we all tuned in, so they could tell us what we'd seen.

There may be scenes of Africa re-created at a zoo near you.
But to see these creatures as they really are,
you must seek the place from whence they came.
There, you will observe from seats in trams
canopied with stout cages.
Sometimes, an animal will stop, and stare right back.
But usually, they go about their business, feeling right at home
(because they are).

When evening comes, the trams return the tourists
to nice hotels in guarded compounds.
Tucked into mosquito nets, you will be safe from everything
except what's in the air.

This page created: 2010-05-05

© Copyright 2010 by Tom Edelson.