Wednesday, April 23, 2014

NPM: More Variations, More Cities

John Atkinson Grimshaw, Boar Lane, Leeds

Yesterday's poems were about cities. Not real cities, not physical cities with geographical locations, histories, and idiosyncrasies, not London, Chicago, or New York; but conceptual cities, the idea of the city. Today's batch of poems are about London, Chicago, and New York. Enjoy!

The Lights of London
Louise Imogen Guiney (1861 – 1920)

The evenfall, so slow on hills, hath shot
Far down into the valley's cold extreme,
Untimely midnight; spire and roof and stream
Like fleeing spectres, shudder and are not.
The Hampstead hollies, from their sylvan plot
Yet cloudless, lean to watch as in a dream,
From chaos climb with many a sudden gleam,
London, one moment fallen and forgot.

Her booths begin to flare; and gases bright
Prick door and window; all her streets obscure
Sparkle and swarm with nothing true or sure,
Full as a marsh of mist and winking light;
Heaven thickens over, Heaven that cannot cure
Her tear by day, her fevered smile by night. 

Nathan Walsh, Little Russia

Carl Sandburg (1878 – 1967)

 Hog Butcher for the World,
 Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
 Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
 Stormy, husky, brawling,
 City of the Big Shoulders:

They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen
 your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys.
And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I
 have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.
And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of
 women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger.
And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this
 my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them:
Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud
 to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning.
Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here
 is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage
 pitted against the wilderness,

 Building, breaking, rebuilding,
Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white
Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man
Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a
Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under
 his ribs the heart of the people,
Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked,
 sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of
 Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.

Nathan Walsh, Queensboro Bridge

Goodbye, New York
(song from the wrong side of the Hudson)
Deborah Garrison (1965 – )

You were the big fat city we called hometown
You were the lyrics I sang but never wrote down

You were the lively graves by the highway in Queens
the bodega where I bought black beans

stacks of the Times we never read
nights we never went to bed

the radio jazz, the doughnut cart
the dogs off their leashes in Tompkins Square Park

You were the tiny brass mailbox key
the joy of "us" and the sorrow of "me"

You were the balcony bar in Grand Central Station
the blunt commuters and their destination

the post-wedding blintzes at 4 A.M.
and the pregnant waitress we never saw again

You were the pickles, you were the jar
You were the prizefight we watched in a bar

the sloppy kiss in the basement at Nell's
the occasional truth that the fortune cookie tells

Sinatra still swinging at Radio City
You were ugly and gorgeous but never pretty

always the question, never the answer
the difficult poet, the aging dancer

the call I made from a corner phone
to a friend in need, who wasn't at home

the fireworks we watched from a tenement roof
the brash allegations and the lack of any proof

my skyline, my byline, my buzzer and door
now you're the dream we lived before

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