Stockton, CA 

by Alexis H. McIlvain
The main interstate is torn apart in both directions: north and southbound.
Orange cones are sloppily placed as lane dividers
for drivers already accustomed to being under construction. 
The crews of white hats were two years past their deadline. 
There is a private university down the road from my high school alma mater. 
Dirt has been plowed over what was once the football stadium; 
the famously manicured lawns have gone brown. 
Hopefuls hold their breath for the city’s billionaire to step in, but even he is dying.
The hospital where my brother was born shut down its maternity ward:
seventy-three nurses without work, two floors gutted for storage closets. 
On the other side of town, where neighborhoods still undergo development,
the dying wealth’s son-in-law has opened the doors of his Mercedes dealership.
The neighborhood that saw me through middle school has gone untouched, 
except for the corner apartments that have been painted bright blue and yellow.
It was an election year. The campaign signs could have been slogan-less. No one read them.
There was nothing left that could be said.
One morning, I saw the face of an old friend on the local paper as I reached for the Times. 
She had lost her university basketball scholarship because of a weak right knee. 
I already knew this. She was a first-year from Brookside Christian high school, major undecided.
We both were. Open charges included conspiracy to commit a crime, kidnap with intent to
commit robbery and rape, robbery: first degree, burglary: second degree. 
The barista shouted for the next in line. I bought a black coffee and every copy left of her
mugshot, throwing them in the dumpster behind that Starbucks.