Thursday, June 13, 2013

STREET POEMS


THIS PENTIMENTO

Via Comandante Simone Guli, 
In Palermo, a street so old that 
High above wives still hang the wash 
Out over the black iron balcony gates
Next to green leaves and blue and white 
Striped curtains falling out of windows.

Once children stood there with mothers, 
Waiting for fathers to return home. 
The red flowers now sit high over sad 
Graffiti and a tobacco shop which 
Serves as some reminder not 
To obscure the view.


STANDING STILL

On Højdevangs Allé, 
In Copenhagen, the flowers 
That line the street 
Are so fragrant that two 
Women stopped walking.

They stood between two buildings
To look at small blue flowers on 
One side while purple and white 
Flowers flourished without moving 
Behind them, on the other side.


OPTICAL ILLUSION

On Edinburgh Street,
In Winnipeg, parts of the ground were still
Covered in snow under a crisp blue and
White sky that almost crackled with sharp
Definition and clarity.

It was there that I turned a corner
And stopped at a driveway and saw
In the icy cold snow carved footprints
That finally reached an almost
Tropically lighted home.


PICTURE PERFECT

On Tazewell Avenue Southeast,
In Roanoke, some houses sit very high
Above the street under a bleak grey sky.
The trees are suffering and bent and leafless 
And the air appears to be chillingly cold. 

I wonder who climbs those long steep 
Staircases to sit closer to that foreboding 
Sky, where clouds cling together trying hard
Not to let thin patches of blue peek through
Because the view might be less mysterious. 


BY THE SEA

On Coast Road,
in Larne, two people stand
Between the purple rocky cliffs and the 
Pale colorless sea on the other side of 
Yellow and purple flowers.

Cars pass by with drivers and passengers 
Whose faces I will never see.
There is an open gate with a path that 
Leads to an unseen place.

And soon, there is a sign that says, 
"Boats," and then the sky turns magically blue. 
But, in the distance the clouds are so low that 
They touch the water. 


SCENES FROM LONG AGO

On Beard Street,
In Kernersville, there are colorful 
Wall murals which give glimpses 
Into what was, long ago. 

I saw ladies in billowing long 
Red and white dresses standing 
With gentlemen wearing tall hats
All waiting at the railroad station 
For family arriving from faraway places.
Soon, they would all step into a horse 
Drawn carriage to take a short ride home.

Nobody looked up to see the child
Perched high above who on bleak days 
After school would climb to the flat roof
To wait for the trains to pass.

The trains were carrying weary passengers
Traveling to faraway places, and they were 
Also going home.

Many years later, she would remember 
The sound of the whistle as the trains 
Passed and she would speak of the sound 
As both sad and mournful,
Perhaps because it always 
Strangely reminded 
Her of all times past.


THIS HEADY ELIXIR

On Clifton Hill,
In Niagara Falls, there is a soft intoxicating 
Smell in the air of sweet and heady nostalgia. 
Walkers cross the street to a bright lush green 
Park and the water is then behind them as a 
Light mist sprays their backs and the 
Visuals turn into blurred memories
Set in stone. 

All the excitement is about to begin.
There is a turquoise haunted house, 
A beckoning moving theater,
The wax museum, 
And a souvenir shop: 
It's a massive swirling kaleidoscope of 
Dreamlike and almost surreal color.

Then, in the center of all this heady elixir 
Is a glorious and perfect SkyWheel,
Where I imagine children sit with parents
High up above it all, setting the graphics into 
What will years later seem almost 
Hallucinogenic. 


NARROW STREET

On Villa Silla,
In Scanno, the low and narrow street
Has a quiet outdoor cafe with tables 
Covered in yellow tablecloths.

One man dines alone
Next to and under purple 
Red and pink flowers.
Gorgeous proud balconies are
Set into buildings with old grey 
Chipped and broken stone.

A little store down the path displays 
Colorful children's clocks:
Bunnies and elephants and angels 
Designed to make the children laugh. 

From another high window, freshly washed 
Towels hang and down below mothers 
Gather to talk and soon walk with their babies.

Flower pots sit on small steps,
Leading up to a home where another woman
Is standing above the street looking down
From a wide open window near a bird feed 
And she too is hanging the wash out to dry.

And then nothing moves and all is frozen. 
Only the wash; the wash flying in front of that 
Large foreboding mountain under a crisp 
And clear blue and white sky. 


THE GHOSTS OF GAY STREET

On Gay Street,
In New York City, there are quaint
Red and white and orange houses that are
Intoxicating because they are so old and little.

There is a building with turquoise shutters and
There are pinks and red and white flowers in
Lovely window pots and green trees
To the left and to the right.

The facade is frozen, but not the living...
Or the dead.

It is said that number 12 is...
Haunted. Maybe so.

But,
It is the house across the street where I see
A ghost.
She is peeking out from the second floor window
On the left side of an orange brick building.

She has bushy eyebrows and one hair roller
Sits on the top of her head.

Her mouth is open as if she is startled and
She appears to be more frightened than the
Tourists who down below night and day
Haunt the street looking for the
Ghosts of Gay Street.


TO GET TO THIS PLACE

On Aleppo Road,
In New Freeport, there are wonderful
things, rich and wonderful things.

Old houses made of dark crumbling
Wood that remembers what was,
A dry waterless sandy creek
And an old and tired bench
Where an old grandmother sat
And turned, with bent and gnarled
Fingers, the pages of a book
While whispering magical words
That filled a child's imagination.

Keep moving past a graveyard where
Old and broken and long forgotten cars
That yesterday were shiny new cars that
Once took children to faraway colorful fairs.

And past some jumping deer going up a
Steep hill to get back to the forest to hide,
To get back to familiar safe places.

A shiny white gazebo stands alone on
The grand grass where dolls sit
Wearing fancy hats and having sweet tea.

To get to this place you will need to
Go the other way, go that other way,
Go a different way to be taken away.


BECAUSE I COULD

On Saatwinkler Damm,
In Berlin, I stood on the far sidewalk 
And watched. 

With lush green trees behind me,
No traffic in front of me, only parked cars
I gazed at the canal in the distance.

And the little white boat passed by
With a high carefree rider whose back was 
To me, so he didn't see me.

I waited and watched and 
Watched and watched for some time
Because I could. 


THE LITTLE FLOWER SHOP

On Sternwartstrade,
In Munich, there is a charming little
Flower shop in a tiny little building
With a green and white
Striped awning.

It was tempting to stand and
Gaze at the technicolor flattered
Flowers.

But, I spun around to also see
Red flowers on tall stems
In front of a house covered in
Gorgeous green ivy.


NOBODY HOME

Between Muirfield Road and Culduthel Road,
In Inverness, there is a street with no name.
But, you can get there.

An old stone building is quietly hidden
Surrounded by a low iron gate
In a lush green fragrant forest.
All sad sounds have fallen away
The many footprints are gone
And all that is left is the still.

The now boarded up windows
Allow no lights from inside to
Show the way home
And I think 
Nobody is home
In this long ago forgotten home.


HOT WATERCOLORS

At Plaja Jupiter,
On Strada Brindisi, look at the
Wonderful things and colorful things:

Rich green and pink stuff to take home
And even more stuff to chew and eat 
So the sense of wonder is remembered. 

Blue water on one side of the sandy heat 
And huge proud swans wait on the water 
On the other side, and never move. 

Later, the day perhaps will become 
Fragmented but the sense of wonder 
Might never become blurred. 


WHAT REMAINS

On Merrimack Street,
In Lowell, there's a signpost 
That says: Detour.

Maybe he never should have 
Taken the other road,
Maybe he should have gone 
Back, gone the other way
And stayed on these roads.

The air at the end of these 
Roads becomes thick and 
Dense and there is fog.

Here, on lonely low bleak cloudy days 
There are quiet somber and grey 
Places: big old several storied houses 
With many front steps and slanted roofs
And lots of windows for eye prints.  

The houses on University Avenue 
From long ago are comforting with
Stubborn intoxicating attics whispering
Secrets obsessed with what 
Was, so returning to this street 
Reveals air like a strange pentimento.

Old stores with faded signs, corner
Places that never ever yielded or 
Changed and they don't bend, they
Remain strong, proud, and solid.

If he stayed for more than a short 
Time he always heard the swing 
Music; drizzling so he could remember.
At night, in dreams, when 
The way became lost, he
Soon realized he never left. 
All that time, all those years 
His eyes were just closed.
The boarded up windows gave 
Him reasons to cry. 

Now, this is the end of the seductive 
Road, his forever destination: 
A place that always surfaced
When sad dreams and deep 
Longing finally fell away...
And he had to return to this place
Like a traveler who finally uses his 
Return trip ticket. 
Home.


SEEING ALMOST NOTHING

On Repatriation Road, 
In Pickering Brook, I drove 
For a long time
And saw almost nothing
Except the narrow road 
Ahead and trees on both sides
With nothing behind me
And nothing ahead of me.
Then, I saw a tractor on one side 
And a low gate on the other and 
I knew I was reaching a place.
Some place.

Then, I saw a tiny little house
All alone there behind some flowers.
It had a front porch with old chairs 
And some other muted things.
In front of the house was a tree, 
Three times taller than the house! 
I kept going.  
I kept going 
Chasing the end of that road. 
Until I reached the end of the road.
Literally. 
And then I went back home.


THE SWANKY PLACE

On Cherry Street,
In Denver, I suppose nothing 
Much has changed.

Maybe some things.
There's a liquor store on one corner 
And a Mexican restaurant on the other.
With one breath, 
The street is inside of me. 

The beckoning street that held 
The door through which he left to 
Go up to the mountains, see an 
Opera, and eat swell food:
The swanky place. 

There is comfort in knowing 
That not much changes:
In some places, time may indeed 
Stand still. 

The street is quiet now;
I think nobody is home. 
And it does look like it will soon rain.


SET IN STONE

On Pineview Street,
In Rocky Mount, there is an old cemetery:
The place where the dead go. 
One grave had nice fresh pink flowers
To whisper that somebody is missed. 

Not many graves, but very old stones
Broken and chipped stones set in tired dirt 
Seen through windows of houses that 
Line that still street.

Some houses set way back
As if to separate the living 
From the dead. 

And then, I saw a children's swing set,
And the sun trying to peek through
To perhaps lift a sense of deep gloom.


ORDINARY THINGS

On Main Street,
In Northport, there is a
Guy standing in the middle of the street
Wearing an orange helmet
And a lady, riding a bicycle on the sidewalk,
Wearing a pale straw sun hat
And two children walking home from school
Wearing book bags and carrying skateboards.

A beautiful house proudly displays the flag,
There are two churches on both sides
When you reach Church Street
And one has lovely pink flowers in front.
There's a post office, a bank,
The fire department announcing
The "Fireman's Fair"...

In front of pristine houses on a crisp clear
Day ordinary things are happening
Where extraordinary things happened.
Nothing remarkable here at all
To speak of the remarkable man that
Once lived here.

Pass through this town, keep driving
Keep going, don't look over your shoulder
Keep going until you read the end:
The water with the boats and the looming
Hill on the other side
And you know you can't turn back.


GOING THE OTHER WAY

On Larimer Street, 
In Denver, I went the wrong way 
Because the sun was endlessly bright
And my eyes hurt.

So, I winced and decided to turn 
Around and see a different view
And go the other way.
I longed for night, so the darkness 
Might blur the vision.

In sunlight, there were too many new 
Things and I longed for the 
Old buildings; these pieces didn't fit.

This music is too now,
And the haircuts are too today.
These silvery parked bicycles 
Have taken short trips. 
The billiard club fills me with despair
For times gone by so I go over
And look at all the hanging beads for 
Making necklaces, as if they held a key to 
Some magical thinking and wearing beads 
Could bring back what once was.

I wondered if this pawn shop 
Accepts memories, 
And keeps them safe
Until later when the memories 
Are bought back. 

Nobody finds places long gone.
But, taking back memories 
Makes me smile.
On this street,
It would be fitting.


PRETTY WALK

On East Guenther Street,
In San Antonio, I felt I should
Be wearing fancy ribbons in my hair
Because the houses are so pretty. 

I passed by houses that are 
Treasures with artistically sculptured 
Facades and stunning lace screened 
Verandas where guests might dine 
On tea cakes spread out on crisp white 
Doilies and later when the sun goes 
Down, talk of small things that matter 
And rinse their hands in dainty 
Finger bowls to keep things fresh. 

There's a place to stand to view the 
Spot where the breathless 
Flowing river passes through
Bringing a sense of sameness. 

I got lost on this intoxicating street, 
Longed to stay, and knew I could return. 
There's a sense of serenity in this old
Comfort as the sunlight falls on this same 
Street as it has fallen on this street forever.


THESE DAYS

On the Promenade,
In Blackpool, exquisite wonder
And bright colors create an intense
Kaleidoscope of magical fun.

There's a high tower and
Amusements and prizes and 
Horse drawn carriages riding next to 
Modern cars.

On the pier, there's a Ferris Wheel with 
Rotating gondolas perfectly suited for 
Grand and glorious views 
Of luminous illuminations.

Luminous illuminations
All right by the sea
By the sea, so all the children 
Who come here 
Will remember these days. 


REMEMBERING AN OLD STREET

On Main Street,
On Martha’s Vineyard, I am 
Filled with bittersweet memories.
I remember Main Street...
I was there, so long ago. 

I can still smell that ocean air, 
So briny and salty and 
All those summers come
Flooding back. 

The day we ate in the diner 
And how the jukebox blared all 
The songs we loved.

In spite of all the quaintness
Of that lovely and charming place
I longed with desperation
To be some place else.

I suppose we are what we carry 
Inside us and in spite of that 
Heady beauty, whenever I was there 
I longed to be somewhere else. 

I suppose there are places that always 
Make us want to go home.


EASY STREET

On Roxbury Drive,
In Beverly Hills, there's an air of
Leafy radiance that settles in and
Lingers until the bewitching hour
When the dusk comes and trances
These special swells into some
Hypnotic splendor.

The dark arrives as usual
And everybody settles in as usual
And there is nothing unusual
In these perfumed rooms.

And then the morning arrives,
The sun rises on this street
Shining a sharp light letting
All those who live on other streets
Know they don't live on easy street.


© 2010 Marjorie Levine







TIME STANDS STILL 

On D79,
In Vicel-Nanteuil, I stopped to
Gaze for quite some time.
At this place, I longed
To stay longer. 

I was outside on this road
But, I wanted to be inside:
Inside these quaint old stone
And very magical cottages.

Here, where there is a thick
Air of stillness and serenity
Across from a sparse forest.

These houses stay strong
They don’t give up
They remain stubborn and
They don’t change.

And there is nothing, nothing at all
In this beauty around anywhere
To remind anybody of
A passing of time. 


DELICATE BRUSHSTROKES

On Vlissingsestraat
In Eck en Wiel, at the end of the street
There is a signpost with four different
Directions to point the way to quiet
Houses still standing alongside beautiful
Canals that take wanderers to places with
Other beautiful canals.

Go to the little graveyard, where people
Rest under the blue and green.
A place this beautiful might perhaps
Exist only in the imagination, in places
Where the weary and forlorn might go to find
Peace when breathless dreams fall away.

Keep going to arrive at a place to rest
And a place to go once around, go
Around and around and around and never
Leave because all here want to stay longer
Because this is a place so beautiful, so
Perfectly decorated with delicate and perfect
Brushstrokes, that nobody ever leaves.


HOUSES AND HOMES

On Lisick,
In Prague, there is a store with a wonderful wall
Decorated with a picture of a tree at the end of a road.
And sitting under the tree are pictures of dogs, birds, and a tiger:
Pictures to show the way when yellow sunlight hits the wall
And the glareless lines are not blurred.

Across from that store is a vacant lot, filled with
Colorful piles of stuff, there from perhaps forever.

I traveled down that road past a bright yellow house
With flower pots on ledges outside the bottom floor windows,
There to show a different way: the way home.
I traveled down that road past a short brown house
With only one floor and pale shutters and yellow flowers in the
Garden to show the way to a different home: this home.
And I traveled down the road past an orange house
With a tree near the gate to obscure the view of: this house.

All houses and homes on the same street and all standing so
Quiet and still and sharing the same sense of quiet in different
Houses and homes.

If a visitor were to sigh while passing through this street
The sound would shatter this street's tranquility:
Fracture the sense of beauty that lives on this street.


VISITING THE DEAD

On Maiselova,
In Prague, so many people
Come to visit the long gone
And dead at the Jewish
Cemetery near
Staronova Synagogue.

These are the dead from
The ages: they were born,
They lived, they loved,
And what's left here now
Is the dust to dust.
Visitors walk slowly as if a
Mere whisper might wake
These dead.

All the many people tiptoe
Quietly around and around
The wall around the old cemetery.
They walk around to get to the
Other side where there are boats
On the still water and newer things.
And they speak, or speak not,
Of times long ago.

The clock in the high distance
Reminds that time always passes,
It passes and passes and passes
In time with the heartbeats,
And there is always a solid wall to
Separate the living
From the dead.


THE BASKET BUILDING

On County Highway 585,
In Newark, there's a seven story
Building
That looks just like a basket.

I didn't want to be outside the
Building,
I wanted to be inside.

I wanted to be inside that basket.
And when I was inside,
I wanted to join hands with
Everybody else who was inside
And sing a song.

Some places are just like that.
They inspire singing;
I left this
Building,
This road
With a basketful of smiles. 


THE FRONT OF THE LIBRARY

On West 10th Street,
In Kansas City, there is a
Library that looks like
Books.

The front looks like
Big books all
Next to each other
All tall and proud.

Catch-22, Oh Pioneers!,
And Fahrenheit 451
To the left, and
Lord of the Rings, Truman,
And To Kill a Mockjngbird
To the right.

Take a walk through
The middle doors,
Right through the middle
And go inside, go all the way in
Walk right inside the books to the
Places the stories can take you.


THE CHRISTMAS STORY HOUSE

On West 11th Street,
In Cleveland, I saw "The
Christmas Story" house.

The street is sort of nice
And leafy now, under a crisp
Blue sky peppered with
Billowy white clouds
Owning the scenes.

There's a sign that shows the way:
To the white picket fence,
That very homey touch,
And the leg lamp in the 
Large and inviting bottom window,
Nice white curtains in the second
Floor windows, where you can see
The reflection of the blue sky
And white clouds:
I know I am there.

On this street, in front of this
House, every day is Christmas:
With one pure gasp you can still
Feel the sharp bone chilling cold,
And see the fresh pristine snow
Covering the ground.

And the day is yours,
Forever.


OLD AND NOW

On 2,
In Lucerne, there are old and newer
Things and all sort of things to remind
You of recent things.

A blue trolley, a grand stone hotel, a
Yellow casino across from a gray church
Where young men parked bicycles to go
To pray in the picture postcard.

There's a palace, and who lives there?
Then brand new buildings that are tiered
Like wedding cakes brimming with green
Shrubbery and a short little building with
Posters of Superman.

The bike rider passes the orange truck
And then the park, always a park so the living
Can remember these streets, these days,
And then keep going and move on.



MELANCHOLY

On Second Avenue,
In New York City, I had dined on
Sweet baklava at Gulluoglu
Every week for years
Feeling this way... or that way.

On one cold January melancholy day,
Under threatening skies, I wore my balaclava.

And in the distance, I imagined or imagined not
That I heard Chopin's Nocturne Op. 55 No. 1.


DESERTED HOUSES

On McDonald Road,
In Lovington, on the dusty
Road under the blue sky
There is an old wooden
House that is deserted.
There's nothing left of the roof,
Or the porch, or the doors.

I traveled down that lonesome road
And saw another house, also deserted.
And then another, set far back and
Looking all broken and empty, too.

I suppose at some time people
Played here, and danced here
Maybe they even sang here
In these now empty rooms.

But, they are all gone now
And nothing is left to hear.
Not the songs they sang or
Even the sound of the wind
That once was, once was
Right there and heard
On days long gone.


THE LIGHTHOUSE

On Main Street,
In Chatham, there's a lighthouse
Between the red, white, and blue flag
And a white house with a red roof
All at the end of the street.

There are cars looking to park and
Men pushing baby carriages
And women with shopping bags
And everybody is going one way:
To the ocean, to the blue ocean.

There's a lantern there to light
The way back at night to other
Places: to other places near to here
So that the walkers can go
Back the other way to reach home.
And the way is lighted so the drivers
Who have come from far away from here
Never quite reach the end of the street
At the end of the day.


WHERE THE ROAD STOPS

On Via Regina,
In Griante Como, I knew I
Was very far away from
My own home and
All places familiar,
All things remembered
And then easily forgotten.

This street with this view was
Created by some artist with sentimental
Sentiments and great attention to
Detail from his own mind's eye: the buildings
With arched entrances, the restaurants where
Diners eat outside under white umbrellas or
Under the clear blue sky next to the perfectly
Sweet green round trees near the boats
On the lake coming and going,
Going and coming.  

The remote and fancy street looks out
Upon a gorgeous lake with mountains
High above in the distance on the other side
On all sides.

On the other side, there's a soft
Mist above those mountains with a
Tiny village sculpted right into the
Mountain above the view of the lake
Behind the red flowers, red flowers
On this side.

This place, where children grew up
And in later years returned to
The same place with the same view
Of the mountain under the mist
And the tiny village sculpted right
Into the mountain.

This might be a good place to stop
A fine place indeed, to stop.
Because after all, all journeys end
And where do I go from here?
Where can I go from here?


© 2011 Marjorie Levine

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