Monday, June 1, 2009

Lynne Hjelmagaard

5 Poems
from ‘Manhattan Sonnets’ (after Edwin Denby)

Cut-up Manhattan in even squares
With chalk, numbers to jump, hop
Double skip wide, don’t cheat be fair’
Til pavement equals clear, hard stop
Early from school in cloudy gloom
Walk by the playground, thunder speaks
Then safe at home, the afternoon
Collects the city, yellow leaves
Stuyvesant Oval’s fountain fresh
N. Y.’s thrust floats, a fine spray
One leaf points to rain, then unrest
Wither on avenue, nature’s play
Some left green late in the year
Chestnut, maple, feel them near

Wet leaf on glass smells brown, kiss
Air, window, my lips cherry moist
Spread wide over courtyard, this
Dark ghost town, hurricane’s choice
Radio reports school is off
Strong-willed storm corners the coast
In my bed safer than New York
With trip to Mars book, I’m engrossed
Lights in building beset, fuse blown
Eye is over us veering north
Manhattan’s in-doors, weather shows
Cyclone center, blue heaven’s berth
Wind increases young girl’s delight
City day I know echoes night

Outside the fence is litter on the grass
I walk by wooden benches
Smoke from trucks and buses
Cars rising on the overpass
Our side of the river has rotten eels
Broken piers and seagull crap
Smokestack’s burning long gray pipes
Scorched metal, shining wheels
Inside the playground are cool sprinklers
Monkey bars, black rubber balls
Barechested men wear gloves on the court
Wind on water boys run together
The first time they stare
And curls are pretty in my hair

A Brooklyn neighborhood reads backwards
Grandma Mary’s paper prints Yiddish
Real when black phone rings in Fifty’s
Tone, sofa like boiled cabbage sags
Esther calls, they meet, work, sew on
Machines, daily labor, coffee breaks
The Bronx subway’s up one block
Sunday noon our meal, T.V. late
A cool autumn’s Saturday, wide
Enough from the roof, New York’s
Mary admires the Presidents ―
And the moon, proud country forged ―
Snores in the living room from the couch
Grandma’s teeth in a jar, empty mouth

Dear pets on dirt path, salamanders
Skedaddle alive in thicket, before
Crunched tails with flip flops, my camp
Torment for weeks, but I endure
Curfew at 9, a bat in cabin scare
We run, joke, hide under beds
Far from gritty streets to share
The U.S. flag our morning pledge
Early a.m. swim a body shakes
By side of dock, counselor’s choice
I jump feet first, dive down, hate
Then pass a test, lose towel, voice
Firelight’s spell, taps are running late
At twilight, summer’s subtle veer

-poem previously published at Jacket 21

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