By Lizz Schumer
I’d know your poetry anywhere
I whisper to the topography of lonely melodies
Winding their way down West Side streets
Pocked with potholes, choking on heroin burnouts.
My feet stumble over cracks in the sidewalk or
I can’t stay upright through this noise pollution
Like tattered star-torn flags waving in restaurant vents
Grease-soaked breezes for a polluted afternoon.
And I ask myself: Why do I capitalize your name
When you’re no longer god or fallen savior
Your pronouns on an old receipt, crumpled
Kept in my back pocket where it festers, oozing.
Homeless prophets eulogize their city
On corners the yuppies own with fresh-mowed lawns
And me in my leather shoes and fringed kimono
Am part of the privilege, the taproot of the problem.
But you don’t appear in windows on these streets
Your face never squatted porches smoking.
I feel safer here, away from something sacred
Incense can’t compete with pizza fumes.
You’re no priest, no altar boy kneeling
And no one confesses secrets in your sacristy
As I wept beneath your strained glass windows
Dreaming of a city with less crinkled spires.
Coming home as twilight lingers, crackles
Driving the wrong way down the Kensington, wondering
How many more babies have to die, break needles
Before we admit we’re still the problem.
Contributor’s Note: LIZZ SCHUMER is a journalism professor at Canisius College and teaches creative writing to high school students through National Geographic Student Expeditions. She is the author of the novel “Buffalo Steel” (Black Rose Writing, 2013) and is a contributing writer for a number of local publications. Her work can be found online at lizzschumer.com.