Van Siclen Blues

I have never stood up for East New York. I let them shit talk and burn it down with laughter. I am ashamed. I have let others rob me of my home. I let a man from Babylon tell me he was afraid of Brooklyn in the daytime. When I asked why he said because the gentrifiers are at work and the heroin addicts are rampaging. I sat there as he poked holes into my upbringing. Throwing stones at poverty. I let him tell his hood tales. Not revealing that I am Brooklyn at dawn. He mentions the unattended fire in a fifth story window on Nostrand Avenue

gray wall with cracked blue paint
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood on

. Says he drove back to Long Island to avoid Brooklyn and its burning buildings.

I started to welcome those that gentrify hoping they bare gifts. A Starbucks to replace the crown fried chicken and whole foods to take place of the liquor store. I’m tired of poverty. I can’t connect to the talks on the steps and loud music for hallway parties. I am sorry for letting others who think the way that I do, talk about you the way that they do. I hate what it implies about me.

There is a misconception that black people from Brooklyn don’t care about the community. I wish I could write this and convince myself of a different experience but I spent years in a cocoon. East New York doesn’t care about East New York … people stopped trying to fix the broken clock.

I’m weary of hiding at Huntington Station and coming back as if the walls don’t close in. I wish I had a strong opinion that could save the community. To do more than grieve with no will. To give Vansiclen avenue something to live for. I feel strongly about black people knowing that the struggle has been traumatic for most. I’ve nested in depression.

The other day I listened to my mother confess to tax fraud in order to keep her benefits. She sat in the chair next to me fumbling to sign the documents with the arm that wasn’t broken. She found time to tell the case worker that I was a college student. It broke my heart to sit there.

I’ve blamed East New York for the fights my mother has gotten into, the drinking, and the leaks that ruined the couch. Blaming it on the crackheads who come up with raps and battle after midnight. East New York reminds me of my mother. Is she gunshots or fireworks? I keep dreaming about her and she appears in my writing. My therapist says there’s a pattern I keep forgetting. Ma is on every lyric, behind every anxiety. It is a love that cannot be unloved.

An Uber driver thanked me for bringing him back to Brooklyn. Said he was afraid he’d see cows on Long Island. The lawns sprawled out scared him with loneliness. Said he couldn’t survive without the commotion. I have since stopped apologizing for chaos.

I’ve realized that flowers still grow in East New York despite its war stories. Babylon on the other hand is still rich and white. I write this not to claim a deep-rooted love for my community nor to bash it. Van Siclen will get better. I believe in miracles. There are elders who have faith and pray for the goodwill of the community. I should vow to return and make sure the lights stay on. Despite the need for separation. I find that I am still Brooklyn at dusk.

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