Theres still a 7-eleven on almost every corner
The parking lot of Chubby’s is still a popular hang out for angry pigeons
And at night under the beam of the full moon and the crackling buzz of the street signs along federal
The tumbleweeds rustle unbothered, and Denver is still the Wild West
My blood has known the easy wave of palm leaves and Lagos beaches from the
womb I didn’t know what a cowboy was until the age of eleven
This rocky desert doesn’t quite know what to do with my skin
my hair breaks in protest
But my spirit
recognizes these mountains like kin
Before Kerouac lost his mind walking the length of colfax
Before the KKK march on larimer
Before marajuana legalization
Before baby doe and wyatt earp
Before the sand creek massacre
and capitol hill
Chief ouray did not want the white man to build on his land
Fought to keep the sweetgrass wild beneath his people’s feet
Held the hand of the devil only when the bodies started piling up
Construction cranes and New York glass cast shadows on neighborhoods whose histories are
being churned into currency
There’s no difference between gentrification and the gold rush
Whoever said Denver had no ghettos
Never realized interment is synonymous with erasure
Denver can play the part of adoptive mother so well
That we forget who she first gave birth to
For every “native” bumper sticker slapped on the back of a prius
There’s an Apache grandmother who had to lose her language to bend that word into existence
under the chipping paint of our historic homes
There are names that were deemed too poor or too brown for remembrance
gets too expensive
turns into a house with “character”
Is delighting in Spanish street names
While driving out the paletta carts to keep property value
About a ‘hood with trendy ethnic restaurants
And trimmed lawns
Cannot connect you to a land you don’t know
You have to dig your fingers in the earth for that
Get comfortable with the skeletons buried next to the flower roots in your backyard
In the last five years my city has swallowed up anyone with enough money for a ski pass, dispensary membership and the dream
And spat out the ones who couldn’t afford to keep up with progress
Tell me the difference between displacement and disappearing
When did we let community become optional in the face of the American Dream?
Does anyone remember when property tax didn’t cost a whole spirit?
Does your tia still live in her old house?
Is there a bike path where your ancestors used to pray?
Do you remember seeing faces like yours in your neighborhood?
Do you have hope that you will again?
As long as there are those who will always remember the highlands
As the North side
Montbello doesn’t stop fighting for its food rights
And the front range peaks are never afraid that the skyscrapers will eclipse them
In Denver we gather together like devotees under the saving glow of candle vigils and poetry readings
In the knowing of each other
And the sharing of soul
We make a home
Copyright © 2019 Toluwanimi Obiwole. Commissioned by Grantmakers in the Arts for this issue of the Reader.
Toluwanimi Obiwole is a Nigerian-born, Colorado-raised poet, performer, and workshop facilitator based in Denver. She is a Brave New Voices international slam champion, a city slam champion, and author of an upcoming chapbook. She has been a member of the Denver Minor Disturbance youth poetry team. In 2015, she was announced as Denver’s first Youth Poet Laureate, and in 2016, she became co-executive director of Slam Nuba.