* * *
The sin of the city is the people jaded to their
brothers’ wonder walking past them,
the tremors of subways and taxis, the undulating
waves of people past people through
passing unknown women beautiful enough to teach
them and men wild and austere
enough to steal their soul;
the masses running, breathing sweat onto the
buildings, talking winds down the avenues
stirred with their hurried steps;
ages of cement on cement in subways, flags the
color of steal rafters, trembling veins
teaming with blood cells battling fear;
streets where no one has seen the sky for
decades, eyes lustless, jaded, past looking for
the wild love of life,
restless skittering without ever feeling the rush
of living in a stranger’s gaze that just
wildlife dead on the doorstep of centuries, trees
reaching for an artificial sun;
the mad, lonely dreamings of the violinist, mad
smile, mad song, breaking the drag just
long enough to forget—
lights dancing without shadows exposing secret
love nooks lying naked in alleys with the
dying truths of grass stains and graffiti;
smiles giving into one last fight in the frenzy
of people alone in a daze of people past
people, so many their auras cross each other
and you can make an excuse not to look.
* * *
No no no no
the human soul is not breaking
even if they’re telling us to walk straight and
even if they’re cracking all our bones and
telling us it’s fate
even if they’re paving out the road
with the schools, and the weddings, and the jobs
and they keep us marching
so we can’t look for the love poems we’ve lost.
Because take away the schools and the career
the non-stop expressway through socialization,
marriage, 9-5, retirement, death
and we are the third world,
struggling tobacco fields swaying in the winds of
we are magic in our innocence
seducing strangers with a word
and the first world’s fighting world wars for our
just to see how far our virginity will go.
’Cause we’ve raped Africa and Asia and we’ve
pornographied their streets
their bananas on our corners and their diamonds
at our feet
fifteen cents for every child letting our dicks
have their way
in a factory for barbie dolls that opens 5
o’clock each day.
’Cause their innocence is dying in the sweatshops
of our greed
and I’m wondering who noticed our America bleed.
And I know that we are angels with the sunlight
on our backs
the America of dreamers with our freedoms on the
Where’s the call for revolution for the rights we
thought we had?
Where’s the fight for speaking freely when this
country gets me mad?
Where’s America that’s criss-crossed by a lonely,
all the way to San Francisco through the sun, and
grass, and dust?
Where’s America of schoolrooms where the lesson
was a song?
Where’s America the beautiful who righted what
’Cause I’ve seen schoolrooms where diplomas
weren’t lined up on the walls
where the students talked of passion and of
living in the halls,
where the teachers were for teaching and they
taught us to be strong.
and there was no talk of failure, just our loves,
and dreams, and songs.
I dream of reading to a crowd that’s lined up out
just like Ginsberg and Millay did on their wild,
I dream of sitting in cafés with the moonlight
seeing art and music in the shimmer on your skin,
talking about living and of words and sighs and
giving in to freedom and giving in to whims,
seeing all the world around me and standing for a
to the song of people seeing all the beauty of
I dream of riding out to ‘Frisco with Kerouac and
seeing all their love-sights like they saw it in
And I’m thinking,
give me freedom, give me back my right to speak,
let me look out at my brothers and pull them back
let me spill my anger on them so that I can make
that none of them are failures, and none of them
they’re just told to walk a straight line
when the human heart is curved.
He was Scared I’d Forget
Every time I pass the house—
chipping white paint with crawling rose bushes,
a beware of dog sign nailed to the fence,
the grey-shingled roof you climbed on to prove
drooping and sagging in places,
I want to open the door on its rusted hinges
and visit the mice that are eating
the first loves we left in your basement
where we took apart the couch and jumped on the
and played charades and Monopoly Jr.
until we first discovered truth or dare
and spin the bottle,
though we never ended up kissing anyone.
I want to see the spider webbed ghost mirrors
play back the day when Mama dropped me off
and I stayed the night.
Way past our bedtime,
because you were too cool and too old for rules,
you crept down and stayed up talking to me
until we heard a robber and armed ourselves with
only to find it was your grandma
wondering why we were still up at 11:00
and sent you to bed,
but you came back down when the sun came up
and we watched Saturday morning cartoons
like every American six-year-old girl wants to do
with the boy she’s in puppy-love with.
Every time I pass the house
I wonder if the mice made good work of your
with its 50’s Coca-Cola wallpaper
and brand new Macintosh computer
which you knew all the tricks to.
I wonder if they remember the corner
where Molly curled up and died one night,
sleeping in her usual place by the stairs,
her sad eyes turned out by old age and new, young
scaring me so much I screamed
and you had to save me,
ain’t seen ya do it in a while.
You’se been thinkin’, ain’t no use in wastin’ one mo’ day.
Smile, chile, ain’t no point in livin’ this way.
Smile, chile, you’se not givin’ up,
life ain’t pretty an’ it's sho’ rough.
But you’ll last, you'll jus’ go on,
ya gotta live it 'til it's done.
ain’t seen ya do it in a while.
It ain’t so bad to flaunt yo’ stuff,
jus’ live it up—ain’t all that rough.
Poems by Anya Raskin