Poetry 2011 / Volume 42

East St. Paul — Erynn Norris

A place where in the mail almost daily comes a notification that yet another ex-convict just released from jail for murder, rape, child molestation, assault, etc. has just moved into the neighborhood, and that “They’re perfectly able to function normally in society,”—Case from Arcade to Payne;

Where in a span of only two weeks, three separate instances of rape make it to the local news, three blocks from the hundred-something year old run-down, blue and white house I once called “home” in the middle of the ghetto—Payne and Case;

You can walk down the street and pass by a young mother and her six year old son and hear the child saying that he wanted to smoke a blunt, calling his mother a “bitch,” “whore,” “skank,” and “slut” for telling him not to ask the man at the corner, waiting for the bus for a drag of his cigarette-Payne;

My childhood friend’s mom was point-blank murdered—stabbed to death by her boyfriend in the comfort of her own upper level duplex home, my friend watching and listening in horror from the next room, just four houses down from the house I grew up in—Lawson;

Friends can be throwing a late night party, having a blast, and on a smoke break overhear an argument escalate into a gunshot, followed by shouts of agony from the next alley over, and when the cops are called, they only question “What happened and where?”—between Cook and Lawson;

A local boy was set on fire by a man in the middle of the day at the popular playground just down the street from where I live now four blocks from my oldest brother and his wife and four stepchildren—Edgerton.

A place where, on any given day it’s not uncommon to see a drunkard riding the city bus, unsure of where he is, where he’s going, or where he came from, or go for a walk around Phalen Lake and see enough littler and Eurasian water milfoil polluting the water to know that any of the few surviving fish caught from its waters would be toxic to eat.

It’s not uncommon, on any given day, that if you walk around downtown, you’re bound to encounter at least three homeless people per block, and even more crack addicts roaming around with a tattered coat pulled around them and dirt caking their face, begging for your spare change for food when they’d actually spend it on another alcohol or drug fix.

It wouldn’t be anything new to me if I were to walk to the bus stop by myself and have at least two cars pull over to the curb I’m on to ask me, “How much?” or “Need a ride?,” or honk at me and yell something vulgar or suggestive out the window as they drive by, as if any decent-looking girl standing on the street had to be easy or a prostitute.

It wouldn’t be news to me if the Super America gas station two blocks from my house was to be robbed at gunpoint, or a drive-by shooting was in the news for casualties or injuries, and I could recognize the scenery behind the news reporter on site, giving the story because it happened just a few blocks down the road.

East St. Paul: a place that 31,511 people call “home.”

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