(written by Marcus Amaker, poet laureate of Charleston)

I live in Charleston,
where the sidewalks scream on Saturday nights
and the corners rotate budding musicians
with skin-tight dreams,

where strings of pearls
search for salvation
then sweat out their frustrations on the backs of rooftops,

where the homeless sprout
like weeds through concrete seeking two dollars, a handshake and a little bit of sunshine,

where the humidity
chokes you out of breath
but you still manage to speak to the spit-shine waiters
who serve $95 bottles of wine,

where two blocks away,
a $5 pitcher of liquid gold
spills on the canvas of sticky floors,

where love lingers on cobblestone streets in narrow alleyways,
and the smell of racism
is the foundation

for first and last impressions,

where shadows are surrounded by the ocean
and sea-seeing people gasp for air from knee-deep bills

and dirt-cheap thrills,

where those with
no sense of history’s melody
sync with the songs of the city’s slaves,

where the poets scrape stanzas off of streetlights
and if they scream loud enough,

maybe someone will hear.

We live in Charleston,
where church steeples and cranes look over us
and multi-colored houses
house live-in servants,
where fast-rising hotels
rise above slow-moving clouds that cast floods on the corner
of America Street,

where parades of one color get one day to celebrate then hide in the shadows of gentrification,

where Gullah cuisine is too expensive
for Gullah people.

The Holy City,
where the steady beat of jazz is the beat of our streets
and the dialect of our past writes future conversations,

where bridges and bike lanes break bread with politics,
while progressives preach peace with uneducated tongues.

The Angel Oak tree is young
compared to our vanity,
where $16 burgers
are sold in the middle of a food desert while every community

wants a piece of the pie.

Grandmothers sit on porches, watching us change
while the problems of our city remain the same.

We live
in Charleston.