Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Poem: The Herald News Calls Paterson a 'Gritty City'

The Herald News Calls Paterson a 'Gritty City'

When I walk out of Passaic County Community College at dusk,
the sky is the most amazing color—deep violet and luminous,
like an old woman who smiles suddenly and looks young.
The courthouse dome is outlined against the sky,
the rococo arches of the old post office,
the clock tower of the new federal building,
starkly simple, and the clock tower of city hall,
ornate and elegant.

I love the voice of this city, the eyes
of its people, the whooshing sound of the Great Falls,
the old mill that has become a museum,
its brick work shining in sunlight.

I see the old men sleeping in the dumpster,
the prostitute resting against the walls of St. Paul’s
Church, the empty crack vials
in the gutter, the transvestites on the corner,
but under the gritty surface, a fresh energy rises,
and it is the heart of the city—
it beats in the shinny copper of the fountain
in Cianci Street park, in the old men in the Roma Club
shrewd and wary, squinting against cigarette smoke,
playing Italian card games and drinking espresso.

It bears in the chests of the new immigrants—
Iranians and Columbians, Cubans and Syrians
Dominicans and Indians, carting their hopes to this city
and dreaming, and in the young men with the gangsta pants,
their underwear showing, and in the bravado
of the girl with the braids and the yellow barrettes
and her starched dress and in the little boy
with his torn sneakers and his jeans jacket
and the handsome clean lines of his face.

I sing this song for them, for all of them,
the saved and the lost, the ones who will survive
and the ones who will not. I sing for the Jamaican family
and their new restaurant and their hard work
and the young Cuban woman who wants to make money
from her poetry, and for those who will find
the city’s heart beating under grit
and who will hear its music
and sing along.

Maria Mazziotti Gillan

Maria's Official Site is at  Her latest publication is the poetry and art collection, The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets.

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