Diablo-Alameda Branch, California
(Based on Giraphics by muralist Dan Fontes)
The freeway overpass
pulses with cars, pick-ups, buses, big-rigs, motorcycles.
All day they speed up, change lanes,
weave in, out, and on.
Underneath the overpass,
drivers pass the huge support pillars emblazoned with—
A giraffe stretching to feed,
a giraffe bending to drink,
two giraffes angling their necks to check out the neighborhood.
Comic surrealism peeks out
amid the apartments, small stores and ever-moving traffic.
“When the freeway fell down in ’89,”
says the artist, “these pillars
had to be enlarged. An old giraffe is still inside.
Can you hear him?”
The child puts her ear to the pillar.
Her face brightens.
“Yes,” she burbles, “He’s saying,
‘Mmm, mmuh-uh-uh, mmmuh.”
So now there’s a new spirit
haunting the Oakland street scene.
Not political. Not gang-related. Not religious.
This spirit makes you smile as you pass by,
shaking your head.
A giraffe poses photo-realistically on the pillar,
leaving homeland camouflage behind.
But his very presence echoes the Serengeti
in this unlikely cement place:
“Mmm, mmuh-uh-uh, mmmuh.”
We came, unwilling, from Africa.
Now Africa leaves a keepsake in our midst.