Sunday, October 24, 2010

"Rest in Peace, you city streets . . ."

This is a poem/song I wrote years ago - after my first experience of Jury Duty landed me on a month-long triple-gang-murder trial. It reflects the fear and fundamental cultural divides I noticed between the jury (mostly white, well-off retired or near-retired people) and the accused and his victims (teenage Black and Asian gang members from the "westside" of Long Beach). Daniel Chantha was a gang-member, ambushed and shot in the head in the alley behind his home. He was 18. Woody Bunthong, also a gang-member, left a family behind. Sakorn Phan, not in a gang, was shot accidentally in his car when an mp3-player in his hand was mistaken for a gun. Reuel Dishon Hulbert, age 24 at the time of his conviction, went to prison for life. On the trial, I sensed an atmosphere of "well, at least they only kill their kind of people." This poem was a reaction to that attitude.

I imagine it put to music, but I can't come up with tunes to save my life. If anybody wants to put it to a tune, be my guest :-)

Anaheim Street – R.I.P – 12/10/08

Hear the song of a city that’s dying

And coming to life again:

The matter of self-immolation,

Asked only in where and when.

Your shops cry out for the living,

Your nights call out for the dead,

And what can I really be giving,

Except what’s already been said?

Then rest in peace, you city streets,

Rest in your broken pride,

It’s we who sold the place for graves,

Then ran when the ghosts came untied,

Our fear of your sons and daughters,

Might well be justified,

But Daniel Chantha’s mother

Still held him when he died.

“Why weep for what’s already broken?”,

“’Let him perish,’ good riddance, it’s done,”

While the empty ideal of brotherhood

Gets lost in the setting sun,

When we took all the work that had meaning,

And shipped it to Mandalay.

So the fathers strangled the children,

‘Cause at least the cameras would pay.

Then rest in peace, you city streets,

At least we know you tried,

It’s we who have forgotten,

The difference in truth and lies,

Our fear of your sons and brothers

Might well be justified,

But Woody’s daughter Bella

Was orphaned when he died.

Jesus, when will the war be over?

Christ, where does the suffering cease?

Could it be that the hope we’ve been offered,

Was a street kid just like these?

You’ll rest in peace, you city streets,

Just whisper this hope in the night,

Perhaps there’s a justice waiting,

That’s stronger than police lights.

Our fear for our sons and daughters

Is always justified,

But Daniel Chantha’s mother

Will hold him when she dies


  1. Sounds like a challenge. Now you make me wish I was home with time to play around on my keyboard rather than at work.

  2. I'd like to hear this set to music... sadly I don't have those skills either, but if someone does... I wanna hear it. :-)