Thursday, August 6, 2015

Poem: In New Jersey Once

Hank Kalet set out to craft a list of 10 representative New Jersey poems, and asked about 40 New Jersey-affiliated poets for suggestions. New Jersey was the home to William Carlos Williams, Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka and Walt Whitman and is the home to Robert Pinsky, C.K. Williams, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Gerald Stern and Alicia Ostriker and many others who have lived or taught here for a time, such as Stephen Dunn, Evie Shockley, Mark Doty and Denise Levertov.

Kalet published "The List: I Hear NJ Singing -- The Varied Poetic Voices of the Garden State" which includes Maria's poem "In New Jersey Once" which R.G. Evans, a South Jersey poet and high-school teacher, selected. Evans says the poem is "a very short poem (that) speaks to the loss of the natural world due to urbanization," a description that seems to sum up the history of the Garden State.

In New Jersey Once

In New Jersey once, marigolds grew wild.
Fields swayed with daisies.
Oaks stood tall on mountains.
Powdered butterflies graced the velvet air.

Listen.  It was like that.
Before the bulldozers.
Before the cranes.
Before the cement sealed the earth.

Even the stars, which used to hang
in thick clusters in the black sky,
even the stars are dim.

Burrow under the blacktop,
under the cement, the old dark earth
is still there.  Dig your hands into it,
feel it, deep, alive on your fingers.

Know that the earth breathes and pulses still.
Listen.  It mourns.  In New Jersey once, flowers grew.

from Where I Come From

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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