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Because we’re not supposed to do it because buildings are holy billboards precious, walls worth more than gold because we’re not supposed to do it touch their buildings, climb their fences, hang like a bird from their roofs leave our mark Because it’s there for everyone to see no museum guards to track you, no fish-eyed lady collecting your entrance fee to another airless palace of “legitimate” art no cultural dues to pay to prove you can look and if you’re young and the wrong color and lively you’re asked to leave ushered into the street where you belong Because it’s out there in the breathable air framed by the sky and the hustle curved Hebraic letters of tags peaceful bombings murals full-scale pieces mesmerizing fences charm bracelets across eyesore alleys nonviolent violence without laying out a dime to the gods of advertising right under the noses of the civic censors late at night on a bicycle a backpack full of paint art where it belongs where we can see it Because when I look at graffiti I know what I would make with my spray can nozzle, my paintbrush, my broad-tipped marker women’s faces, all kinds in repose, hilarious, tragic, divine, girls and crones so we can see ourselves not on the oil slicks of billboards singing for whiskey or cigarettes or love But floating across a vacant lot on Harrison pressed into the abandoned walls of a brewery south of Market high-styling an office building meditating on the financial district, its spilled curbs and unopened windows, on financiers, laborers and the dispossessed real women looking us straight in the eye And in spite of the aneurysms of culture the instinct to close the door turn up the heat and die peacefully with what I already know graffiti makes me love the streets again: wild horses, Malcolm X, whimsical dogs, urgent signs kids screaming their names because we’re not supposed to do it make this cemented world ours — Katharine Harer


Bali Belly Issue 003