Poem: “What Must Be Done”
By Fernando Martí Posted on January 9, 2017
Do not hate them.
Do not be angry with them:
The real estate agents, appraising
the value of other peoples lives,
calculating the profit that someone’s home
of twenty years, delivered vacant, will bring.
Do not blame them, the developers,
imagining a whole new population,
turned over and recycled, clean,
where there is no room for you and me.
Do not fear them, the bankers and investors
who hold whole worlds in a regurgitation
of destruction and reconstruction
wrapped in exponential rates of return.
Do not raise your voice in anger
they are doing exactly what they
are supposed to do, what we
created them to do,
from the moment we surveyed
the soft curve of these hills
from Spanish galleons and Puritan sails,
delineated parcels on a map
with cartographic precision,
enclosed this earthly flesh, cut it up
in harsh fencings and gridded streets,
profaned this land once sacred and common,
gift from Creator.
have been with us from the moment
our eyes first saw in this land something
to be signed into writs of ownership
that could be given a price and
exchanged on printed paper deeds.
We carry their joy of possession,
deep in our cultural memory:
how that primal “us” and “not-us,”
“ours” and “not-ours,” became
the cancerous accumulation of
“what I can profit from,”
eating ourselves from the inside,
our home on this Earth.
Mourn them now, their vacant dreams.
Feel their loss, their days are numbered.
Be compassionate, take no joy
in what must be done.
Do not be tempted to offer a second chance,
no matter how much they are like us –
their entire lives have been second chances.
They are, in fact, us, and that is why
it must be done.
Be swift and complete.
Our existence depends on it,
as does their only hope for solace.
Fernando Martí is co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations, a coalition of affordable housing and community economic development advocates in San Francisco.