Poem: When You Came Here

Poem: When You Came Here

New York is strange that way

shedding shops and

birthing new buildings,

all while you’re

waiting to cross a street or

watching a parade roll by.

 

In the years since you’ve been here

violent waves of gentrification

have washed over the land

you once knew.

It seems to some like

a shot to the concrete heart

but is a death much slower

change strangling livelihoods

so you’re left to mourn

your favorite places

McLoughlin’s and Boyle’s Bar,

Benny’s Burritos,

the deli around the corner

with the nice man from Pakistan,

as the paint dries

and the sun winks

knowingly

at the streets.

 

New Yorkers are strange that way

missing the ways things were

forgetting the ways

they’ve changed shape

to find a place

in this endless puzzle

of nine million people.

 

But under the layers of soot and grime

in the rare moments of quiet

between sirens and shouts

in the early hours of morning

when the buses sleep in Jersey

and the Hudson flows in silence

you can find exactly who you were

when you came here.

 

Dedicated to Papa, my favorite New Yorker

A poem for my grandfather

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The painting you painted for me, and for my siblings, is unlike any other work you’ve ever done.

Different from your other pieces, which are so precise, relentlessly realistic, this painting is full of broad brush strokes, composed of love and light. The painting captures essence and exact truths fall away. Because when I look at this painting a C+ is an A+, a failure is a learning moment, and no matter what I say or do, I can do no wrong.

That’s a very special work of art to have.

This painting you painted for me reflects your humor, and just the sight of it makes me smile. And if this painting depicted you, it would capture your laugh, the endearing way your eyes creased when you told a joke, and the way you beamed when surrounded by family.

This painting began when I was born and grew into something magnificent, a mural expanding over the 28 years I’ve been alive. And no matter where I was or what I went through, when I looked up, this painting was there.

This painting you painted for me. In your humbleness you’d say it’s worth nothing but it’s the lens through which I see the world. And because of this painting, everything I see is colored by your kindness and your light.

This painting, Grandpa, is forever hanging in my heart.

Seen in Astoria…

A couple sits
In the corner of a dive bar
She’s smiling
Absentmindedly pushing around
Scrabble pieces
Rearranging the letters
Admiring her work.

He hardly notices what she’s doing
Because his eyes never leave hers
And in her presence
Everything else is a blur

Suddenly he checks his watch
They jump off their stools
And run out of the bar

Left behind are words unseen:

YOU
CHANGED
EVERYTHING

Poem: Decisions

Poem: Decisions

Some are light and airy

As a feather

Inconsequential as

Blowing on a cottony dandelion

And watching the pieces

Float onto the grass.

 

But others

Others take all your energy

To even lift

To contemplation

And just when you know what to do

They change form

Slipping through your fingers

Like water

 

But the hardest part

If you’re anything like me

Isn’t the decision,

But the aftermath of one

 

When regret and anxiety

Swirl manically inside of you

Like a fan you can’t switch off

A fan that’s spinning so fast

You fear

It might become unhinged

 

The days flutter by

While this decision somehow

Shades every aspect of your life

Crawls into parts of your body

You didn’t know

Doubt could reach

 

Until one morning you wake

Look around

And feel a strange sense of

Serenity

Because finally

You and your decision

Are one.

Poem: A Smile

Poem: A Smile

Every day I saw you

Straight-faced

Tight-lipped

I’d smile, say hello

Nothing

So I decided

Why should I bother?

 

I didn’t notice

When you were gone

Then they told me

You were sick for months

Finally succumbing

To a disease

That caused so much pain

 

And I thought to myself

You never really know

What someone’s going through

 

I thought to myself

What could it have hurt

To smile once a day

Knowing I wouldn’t get

A smile in return.

Poem: After Stella

Seen along the East River pathway near Carl Schurz Park, after Winter Storm Stella.

walking the winding

east river path 

just after snowfall

a few people

scattered here and there

weak, distant lights

straining to be seen

 

right where the path turns

i see a ballerina

dancing alone,

seizing solitude,

her arms fighting

the pull of the wind

 

though she has no audience

empty benches 

line up to watch her

and the river reflects 

her every move

 

as i approach her stage

she catches my eye 

stopping, for a moment 

than completing her pirouette 

 

twirl, bend, twirl, bend, twirl

moving gracefully into the night 

 

no music

just the silence of the city

and the crunch of the snow

beneath her feet 

Jumpstart the thought process…

Graphic courtesy of facebook.com/friesenpress
Graphic courtesy of facebook.com/friesenpress

I hate the word “flow,” I really do. But sometimes when you follow the above advice, the words just flow onto the page. There’s a good chance you’ll delete most of those words later on, but you’re in a much better position than simply staring at the screen, trying to force a vision that won’t come.