Across the street an old woman hobbles by.— from “Dreams in Harrison Railroad Park”
My mother tells me: She is unhappy here.
She thinks she would be happier
But she has forgotten.
Today’s read: Dreams in Harrison Railroad Park: Poems by Nellie Wong – Kelsey St. Press – 1977
The place of this poem still exists. It is no longer a railroad park but still lives on as a one block garden park that also houses a child care facility and help center for immigrants. As well as one of many refuges for Oakland’s homeless population. I have driven past it many times and always enjoyed how it breaks up the rows of Chinatown small homes with a small splash of lawn and a modest pagoda that never seemed out of place. I have wondered how it has survived so long through the waves of gentrification. The poetry optimist in me imagines that Nellie Wong’s collection and title poem may have something to do with it. This image of generations of women, native and displaced, asking questions, speaking answers. You can see this cycle still happening in that same corner. Who deserves to be here? Where is the happiness? What does it mean to belong?