(More poetry from Marc Pietrzykowski, Ken Meisel, Vanessa Sylvester, Lisa Wood, Sarolina Shen Chang, Holly Day, Robin Merrill, Marina Rubin, David J Thompson, and Jessy Randall in the print version of The White Crow.
Once I was up late, in December.
I was twenty-two. It was snowing,
and the dark trees were slowly
filling up with snow and moisture
so that if you looked deep
enough into them, by God you'd see
that they were glistening.
This was the city of Hamtramck,
and I was outside, listening
to the night. I saw a woman, she
was foreign, I think from the Ukraine,
and she was quietly weeping,
holding her face in a blue towel.
It was Christmas, and the decorative
lights were draped like garland
across the snowy bushes and roofs.
Some bulbs were blue, some red,
some green, and some of the lights,
wrapped tightly around tree trunks,
shined opaque. There had been
a harsh quarrel, a fight, between a man
and a woman, I think this woman
weeping nearby, and then, silence.
The night had absorbed everything.
And the cars lumbered sluggishly
over the white, snow-covered streets.
Slowly, the evening lights darkened
and all I could hear were the sounds
of salt trucks chugging down roads,
and the grunts and the heavy stepping
of bruised men, leaving bars.
Someone had said that Santa Claus
would sail over the Davison Freeway,
and he would tug hard on the ropes,
urging the reindeer toward Grosse Pointe,
bypassing Hamtramck altogether.
Because no one was joyous here.
Not the hard-luck, shell-faced laborers,
Not the broken-hearted women.
Not even the dirty-faced children.
I wanted to step through the light snow.
Touch this woman on her shoulder,
comfort her. Because she was weeping.
I was twenty-two and very alone.
I didn't have the language to soothe
anyone yet. And even if I did, it still
may not have mattered, nor done any good.
The night was as silver as heaven.
The trees held all of the secrets about
loving a person I didn't yet know.
The woman groaned from her throat.
I hid behind a railing, watching her.
- Ken Meisel
the only person
subletting & willing
me w/o references
he opened his door
& allowed me in to
filth from 1932
said he couldn't speak
& I was too upset
by the woman I'd left
to speak well
& an Asian woman
who'd beaten me there
asked him if he'd
before she'd move in
his eyes found mine
as he shrugged
she left to inspect
the bathroom down
I shook his hand w/
all the love I had left
& said I thought his place
as it was
than the place from which I'd
fled a woman
more about clean bathrooms
than she did
his throat attempted
his hand searched
for an OTB ticket
on which he jotted
from one of my shoes
all the $
I had left
exchanged it for 2
keys his nod promised
his calloused hand w/
God as our witness
a view of Midtown
I'd never wash &
- Mark Wisniewski
When my mother was young, she was rich
So rich that her father bought her a coat
Straight from a department store
At ten after closing time by knocking on the window
And shaking a handful of money at the manager.
It was a beautiful coat
Georgia clay red with a furry collar.
When my mother got a little older, her family was poor
And her mother and her had to share a coat. One had to
wait for the other to come in order to go out.
It was an ugly coat
dull, black, dour.
She was neither rich nor poor when she passed away.
My sister and I quarrel over her belongings
One coat particularly.
It was chic
Camel-colored, cinching at the waist.
My father threw salt,
He said it looked better on me
Through persistence, I won it.
She was a secret, mostly silent woman.
What I know of my mother, I glean from shadows.
I wear her coat prudently.
- Allison Whittenberg
Super 8 Cowboys
I saw cowboys in Colorado once.
They were in the lobby
of the Super 8, waiting in line
at the continental breakfast,
tapping the toes
of their worn brown boots
on the white tiled floor.
They didn't stay long,
thought I lost them,
until half an hour later
I saw them tacking
up their horses
in the parking lot.
They weren't wearing hats,
but they were real,
and I took three pictures
of them anyway.
- Lisa Wood
Last updated 09.28.2003