If we caught a glimpse of you in the City Lights, a gift:
How in your defense of the poets’ right to be outrageous
You freed us all to hear poetry’s bottomless truths howl down
The dirty streets of Columbus Avenue, where on rainy afternoons
Just steps away from the strip clubs and Jack Kerouac Alley
We’d spend our hours in your stacks, sit on your trampled floor
Surrounded by the words that filled the space you made for just such
An afternoon. There was never enough time to make a choice, the offerings
So like Coney Island itself: Wisdom hiding in the amusement of vowels and
Consonants gathered together on wings of once trees. Who could forget how
You compared a woman’s private place to a bird’s nest or reminded us that
St. Francis didn’t need a statue or a city to be holy but we were glad you
Chose that one to fill with devotion and revolution. Later, after we had
Extricated ourselves from your exquisite store of possibility, we’d sit at
Calzone’s over an espresso and Italian pot stickers and people watch as if
For a moment you were there with us, making comments, wry and wise,
Irreverent, of course, the treasures we’d bring home to our apartment
In another overpriced neighborhood nestled in your distinctive black bag,
Its icon as simple as the heaven you imagined for us, a place where a
Touch of hell wasn’t such a bad thing and the poets were free to verse.
Yvonne Daley is a career journalist who returned to poetry for sanity in these troubled times. She lives in Vermont, still a sane place.
Photo by Thomas Hawk.