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Gary Beck
Poetry

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Gentrification

I live in an old tenement.

Friends and neighbours

I grew up with are gone.

They fixed up all the buildings

except mine,

which is why I still live here,

while all the other houses

are expensive

and the new people

who moved in

think they’re special,

they look away when they see me.

They always stop and talk

and block the sidewalk

and won’t move to let me by.

They all have funny looking dogs

and nanny ladies for their children.

Soon they’ll fix my building.

I don’t know where I’ll go,

but I’ll be glad

to get away from here.

Gary Beck has spent most of his adult life as a theatre director and worked as an art dealer when he couldn't earn a living in the theatre. His original plays and translations of Moliere, Aristophanes and Sophocles have been produced Off Broadway. His poetry, fiction and essays have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines and his published books include 31 poetry collections, 14 novels, 3 short story collections, 1 collection of essays and 4 books of plays. Gary lives in New York City.

 

Of the poem featured here, Gary says:

 

‘Gentrification originated in my direct exposure to the upending of a poverty community and the wealthy moving in, which prompted the withdrawal of former ethnic residents who could no longer afford escalated rents. I lived in two neighbourhoods where this happened, so it is a personal response to a particular experience that was prompted with the White infiltration of Harlem, which will inevitably lead to the black exodus. Gentrification is an expression of the haves evicting the have nots when they need more living room. It is an insidious process that displaces the working class who can no longer live in proximity to their working places, thus forcing loss of jobs and possible small business shutdowns. It is in progress in Manhattan and many major cities.’