Dedicated  to Jane Jacobs

Being Jewish and attached at the Freud,

I have no interest in turning my poetry

to poisonous waterways of the planet,

the ozone above, or the fracking below.

I walk the used condom streets of New York,

from the old Chelsea Hotel up to Central Park,

I hear the traffic jazz and a newspaper flies in my face.

Oh what a relief to come to the precipice of this green,

now winter, tan like a scarecrow, naked trees create

a girdle, in May the carpet of grass will return to lime.

In a city obsessed with appearance I greet you 

without judgment. In March your carpet will be mud,

like a Kardashian facemask, I will notice the mask

is working when the grass begins to turn Spring colors.

My father welcomed this change of season as he worked

outdoors braving New York’s winter without hat or gloves,

a heavy jacket but no scarf, this old school gruff figure

returning at dinner with red ears and hands like Egyptian

mortuary, winter after winter, suffering no colds or fevers.

This winter scene on Central Park with bare trees braying,

the rare spot in the city when I can see the sky white and azure

as an angel hovering to protect me,

it isn’t Paris but I don’t need Paris,

I only need this living landscape buttressed up against my concrete life

to give me hope, to remind me that nothing harsh remains forever,

that beauty is a gift wrapped in all seasons. My father never saw it

 as he gathered woven scraps and plastic doll bodies, burst from over stuffing 

 by women bent to the needle,

he took all these human mistakes and bundled them into bales of Kahlo colors,

silks, gabardines, wools, frayed blouses, dresses and suits,

sewn on machines, timed on the clock, in garment center gray rows,

 “seconds’ thrown to the factory floors. My father and his men 

trussing the huge bundles of discards taut with metal wires, round and round 

the puffy clouds of rejects, loaded on  Brooklyn trucks to be weighed and sold

by the pound and recycled,  for next year’s fashion. 

 My dad spent all his life looking into a giant cement baling hole 

never musing where the muslin, chiffon and corduroy of his bales began.

Never hauling the pride of  “recycling” for future generations.

I give thanks to Fredrick Law Olmstead and his Central Park for inspiring me

 to think of my father and his harness to work, like Diego Rivera’s field workers,

carrying huge bundles of crops on their backs in the hot sun, to keep their families

warm and fed.  I don’t know why I thought of my dad now, that is the magic 

of nature. Wandering like Whitman in New York, thoughts become meditations, 

waking dreams of life and family, love and regrets, harnessing us to the world

trussing us to contemplate the life and death of great American cities, and people

as Jane Jacobs urged us to do as we lived and breathed in them, in our time.

We need these green patches in the midst of every city, 

to remind us we are not of machine, steel and glass,

we are fibrous and tissue, blood and heart, memory and child,

this level playing field –of nothingness that does not yield any capital

gives all  the smell of new life,  the sweep of openness that does not

warehouse people tied to toil night and day, that has no purpose but 

to be there for us to muse upon, season after season, 

to lay a blanket down and listen to a concert, look up at the hammock of stars,

it asks nothing from us, just to be gentle, to revere its presence,

not to rape its coverlet to extract and destroy by fracking,

to poison the waterways of life’s biology,

if we don’t honor these gifts, than our species will go the way of the raptors,

nature gives us our humanity,

primitive tribes knew this and named gods after the four directions,

there is no amount of money that will buy us earth’s gifts,

I can feel the stirring of spring seeds

under this icy forest, as I walk past and listen to the silence.

Lee Schwartzis New York-based poet and teacher of memoir, inspired by my Greenwich Village neighborhood and all the writers who lived here: Hansbury, Ginsberg, Poe, Lorde, Dylan, et al. She studied with Sharon Olds, who, along with Frida Kahlo, is her muse. She has been Artist in Residence at the 92nd St Y in Manhattan, has published poetry in various magazines and anthologies, and is a two-time winner of the Allen Ginsberg Paterson Literary Prize.