Blood on the Streets


Like a tough flint
honed by a hungry stone-age hunter
two million years ago –
faithfully chipping off slivers
that winked dully in the midday sun –
you sharpen your rage, poke at
your gangsta habit of revenge,
cold to the sabre-tooth-marks in the one
who you hate and blame, not stopping to think
that though chance has led you to be foes,
your histories are the same.

Compassion is banned;
you stick the killer and you slink away,
the new abuser; in one foul move ceasing to be accuser,
taking your place as the accused –
just a slim link in the striped chain of retribution,
the latest player in a city game, unhindered
by guilt or shame.

The opposing team is obligated to whip up
its hate, to ignore the history of pain that emaciated
your better nature.
They paint your sticky crimson fate
across a careworn street where angels whisper benedictions
and a lone mother listens.

As your blood rusts in the gutter,
happenstance brothers take their deadly place
in the self-defeating spiral
of vengeance.

The sane man proselytizes from a sagging soapbox.
Raising his hands in supplication, he claims
that all which flows from our veins is red,
all of it smells the same,
all death leaves a similar bitter taste,
and we are all related.

Declaring he’s crazy, friends and foes
unite to chase him away.
Nothing changes;
loading their guns,
they shoot another brother.


©Jane Paterson Basil

20 thoughts on “Blood on the Streets

      1. While reading your words, the on-going tragedies between the Los Angeles Bloods and Crips, automatically rushed into my thoughts. Of course these tragedies can be found within any gang/organization throughout the world. (@–>–)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes, but I was thinking but I was thinking of them when I wrote the poem. It’s terrible when people who need to stick together turn against each other. They’re playing into the hands of a government that wants to crush them.


  1. It’s an interesting thought, that all the gangs who pitch against each other within the same city or area could produce so much more, so improve their own lives and those of their communities if they channelled their energies in other ways. Sad but haven’t people always bee the same, their petty rivalries tearing them apart.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think it was the film Boyz n the Hood, which illustrated that well. You have two gangs fighting each other, and one older guy unable to make them understand that they were brothers who should unite against the real enemy. I found the film heart-breaking.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Repeated so many times throughout history. Makes me think of the Native American tribes some of whom who instead of uniting chose to side with the incoming white men against their generations old enemies – neighbouring tribes. And we all know how that sorry tale ended

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Ha! My husband did too. I remember is seeing a real Sioux Indian Ghost Shirt in an antique shop window once. Of course it was more money than we earned in months between us – but he went back a couple of times to see it.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. We could start a club – dress as native Americans and do war dances, then go to the local social club and scalp all the line dancers in their fringed shirts, fake cowboy hats and spurs 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

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