Friday, September 13, 2013


Happy Poetry Friday! Jen has Roundup at Teach Mentor Texts.

...from our "transportation" trip to NYC. Note
also the handwritten note from a subway clerk.
And they say people aren't kind in NYC...
NOT true!

I've got cities on my mind, as next weekend I will travel to Washington, DC, for the National Book Festival. I'm excited! 

I like DC, but my heart belongs to New York City. For many years Paul and I visited once a year. We took our kids there one year for a "transportation" themed trip. Our goal was to experience as many forms of transportation as possible. We'll be taking them again in 2014... not sure what our theme will be with them as teens. :)

Anyhow, all this city-love reminded of the late great Charles Bukowski poem featured below. I've always loved how raw and unschooled Bukowski's work is... it reminds me that a poem is more about heart than polish. Or at least that's the way I like poems!

a poem is a city

 by Charles Bukowski

a poem is a city filled with streets and sewers
filled with saints, heroes, beggars, madmen,
filled with banality and booze,
filled with rain and thunder and periods of
drought, a poem is a city at war,
a poem is a city asking a clock why,
a poem is a city burning,
a poem is a city under guns
its barbershops filled with cynical drunks,
a poem is a city where God rides naked
through the streets like Lady Godiva,
where dogs bark at night, and chase away
the flag; a poem is a city of poets,
most of them quite similar
and envious and bitter …
a poem is this city now,
50 miles from nowhere,
9:09 in the morning,
the taste of liquor and cigarettes,
no police, no lovers, walking the streets,
this poem, this city, closing its doors,
barricaded, almost empty,
mournful without tears, aging without pity,
the hardrock mountains,
the ocean like a lavender flame,
a moon destitute of greatness,
a small music from broken windows …

a poem is a city, a poem is a nation,
a poem is the world …

and now I stick this under glass
for the mad editor’s scrutiny,
and night is elsewhere
and faint gray ladies stand in line,
dog follows dog to estuary,
the trumpets bring on gallows
as small men rant at things
they cannot do.


  1. Yes, there is much to like in this poem, Irene. Cities are complicated, full of so much gritty stuff. I took my students there a few years ago-an amazing trip, & everyone was so helpful & kind, just as you mentioned. One wonderful morning was spent at the Jazz Museum in Harlem, FYI, for your teens. Love "a small music from broken windows..." Thank you!

    1. Linda, I've never been to the Jazz Museum in Harlem, and the youngest is a percussionist, so YES, great suggestion! Thank you. Adding it to the list. xo

  2. Oh, hadn't seen this poem before. Perfect! I also love NYC and hope to visit again soon. "Unschooled" is a great way to describe Bukowski's style. :)


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