Friday, August 18, 2017

Poem: "Oak Place Musings"

Oak Place Musings


On my neighbor's roof, plastic butterflies
freeze in rigid postures. Rubber ducks waddle
into trimmed evergreens; plaster cats climb
siding toward peaked roofs

Once, in a vacant Paterson lot, I caught
a butterfly, the lot seemed huge. Daisies
grew there and marigolds and red berries
which stained our fingers. We had crepe paper
whirlers in varied colors; we spun and spun.
The whirlers were an army of insects
buzzing, till tall grass and flowers blurred.

The butterfly in my hand beat its wings
in terror. My hand stained gold.
When I let it escape, it flew away fast,
and then, forgetting, it dipped and swirled
so gracefully I almost stopped breathing.


By nine each morning, Oak Place with its neat box
houses lies still and empty. Children have vanished
into yellow camp buses, parents departed in separate cars.

The street settles into somnolence. Its lines
and angles imprison handkerchief lawns
until even the old oaks no longer seem at home.
In my yesterdays, I dreamed myself out of the old city,
imagining a world just like this one,
away from strewn garbage and houses stacked close as teeth.

Today I mourn tomatoes ripening in our immigrant gardens,
the pattern of sun on walls of old brick mills,
a time when each day opened like a morning glory.
Some days when I look at my hand, I imagine
it is still stained gold.

"Oak Place Musings" by Maria Mazziotti Gillan from Good Poems for Hard Times, edited by Garrison Keillor

Maria Mazziotti Gillan's most recent books are the poetry and photography collection, Paterson Light and Shadow  and the poetry collection, What Blooms in Winter . Her collection of poems along with some of her paintings is The Girls in the Chartreuse Jackets . Maria's official website is

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