My poem “Crow’s Rosary”

December 28, 2010

The author in Hoboken, 1988

Keeping with the bird theme, a Tweet by Juliet Wilson reminded me of an old poem of mine written in 1987, when I was part of the Hoboken, NJ, poetry scene.  It was published in the journal Chalk Circle in 1989, when I was one of a group of writers known as “The Decompositionalists.”

“Crow’s Rosary” was about the changes that were happening in Hoboken at the time, and the clash of cultures that continued thereafter as the mix of ethnicity and artists gave way to gentrification.  No doubt it is a very different place today.

Here is my poem

Crow’s Rosary

 

Hoboken again after so long gone, yet the gregarious scent of coffee lingers;

the ka-chung, ka-choong of the old furnaces is replaced by the dolorous

buttoning of starched white collars–

 

Tinderbox matchbooks, this town harbors a legacy of fire–

a last-resort for some to stem the tide of condo-conversion.

The siren-scourge filling the air once filled by shipyard steam.

 

One crow equals one square mile in this mile-square-city and that lone crow

follows me from rooftop to steeple, from apartment to train depot,

 

end to end and back again–“Carrion waiting, carrion waiting!” he cawcries.

Somewhere on the cobblestone Court Street, he stops–

the garbage piled high in the alleyway.

 

Resuming flight, his feathers soiled by ashes, carrion of this

melting pot boiling over too high a flame–his rosary chanted-out above

the rooftops; church bells echo the litany of the displaced, “Carry on waiting.”

 

“I’ll die in your rosary,” sighs the Hoboken muse.  “So carry on waiting.”

The Hoboken muse, the wife, dressed in black even in the heat of summer,

soothes the dusky sky.

 

The hammer’s hammer harkens: “Make way!  Make way for the new tide that

rises above the din and dun!  A new sleep is upon us!”

 

No morning comes without the hammer’s calling for work to be done;

another home displaced in Hoboken.  They never cease except for

the obligatory coffee break taken 10 minutes after waking us all up.

 

A peregrine falcon rests on our laundry pole out back,

starling-eyed–showing us the underside of our breadwinning days,

challenging us to use those drear, found things.

 

The litany of lonesomeness leaves nothing left for the crow’s rosary

to be counted on.  In the weepdusk, he cries in a deafening crowd,

“Carry on waiting, carrion.  Carrion waiting!”

 

The curry-garlic-jalapeño-covered walls and streets now come

prepackaged, processed for microwaves and barbecues–

 

I see, in my eros-dreaminess, your suppliant flesh

resting on the tar beach; feel the embrace that comes

when our flesh conjugates a verb–

 

while the crow, soaring alone, surveys the tumult of our disheveled days.

This is a ghost of Hoboken–and I am to carry on with my waiting,

carry on as the crow with his lonesome rosary.

 

Who has the time to let the coffee steep, to savor the “last drop?”

And what does this new Hoboken mean to us, so unlike what it was to us?

 

Altar-clouds rise above us, an endless stream of

forgetting and rising, forgetting and rising,

linked by the crow’s rosary, the litany of lonesomeness.

 

There’s a gibbous moon out back, illuminating the night kitchen.

“Thee sees we love our garden,” says the Hoboken muse.  “Let me assure you:

tho’ it may be only clapboards and clay pots now, its future is ardorous bounty…”

 

We live in shells cast aside by others, hollow bodies awaiting obsolescence.

Knowing this, the streets seem more calamitous.

Knowing this, we set-about preparing the earth’s redeeming.

 

Now you come to me with your chalice of hopelessness:

We are never so alone as when we long for lost things.

 

Scott Edward Anderson, Chalk Circle 1989

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