Poem | Kathryn Kopple

Source : ny.eater.com

Tompkins Square Park

Wooden benches do time inside cast iron
fences that hold the park squarely between
10th Street and Alphabet City; the one
hood  in Manhattan where avenues are
named by letters; they go from A to D.
Hard drugs, hard luck—
the pair of them flowing in and out of
the park like best friends bringing out the worst
in each other.   Those benches doubled
as twin beds twelve months out of the year.

Back then, I squeezed into a room rented
from a guy on Avenue C. His Pop
owned the whole building.  My walk to work
funneled me past the park—and its stark sights.
To the west, Washington Square promised
a different view, more eye friendly by far.
The Arch—tall as a Roman aqueduct—clearly
in charge.  The statues weren’t going anywhere.
Robert Moses’s civic ambitions turned
the old fountain into New York’s most
elegant wading pool. As for Tompkins,
it’s as if Moses never got that far.
No one to lead the people out of the squalidness.
Or spare them the ten plagues.

To see the park now—green mantels of grass,
green canopies of elms, green flowerbeds.
I come bearing envoys of decades past;
envoys that come as strangers, a bit lost,
invisible as memories are to everyone
but those who still remember.

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