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The Way It Is (II)

                                    Erika Meitner


This old lady, she stands 
rasping through gutters

outside the barbershop door-
step a lot when it’s closed 

for the day. Anybody 
she sees, she always stops:

Red Market hustlers, 
car service driver, a bum,

& talks to them, whether 
she knows them or not.  

This bum is lying down
on the sidewalk sockless 

& having a dream about 
what to do tomorrow.

They say ghetto kids 
can’t postpone pleasure, 

but what do you call kids
raising these bruised roofs

to fly them? What do 
you say about dreary & 

bleak & this is a picture
of the people who live

in the slums & the people
who live in the slums

should move because
where do you go with 

no hot water or lights
in the hall sometimes &

where do you go from 
this old lady in her 

white housedress,
this old lady beneath 

the striped barber pole, 
this abuelita when she 

talks to you & you don’t
pay any attention, she puts 

her hand on her heart 
because where do you 

go tomorrow from here
& here & here.

 

Author’s Note: This is a collage poem based on text from a 1969 children's book about Williamsburg, Brooklyn, edited by John Holland, called The Way It Is: Fifteen boys describe life in their neglected urban neighborhood. To read more about this book, go here (http://www.sweet-juniper.com/2010/06/another-selection-from-our-collection.html).


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