For the next two weeks, Title will be featuring poems from poets participating in the Outbound Poetry Festival, a series of pop-up readings at 30th Street Station, curated by Philadelphia Poet Laureate Yolanda Wisher in collaboration with the Philadelphia Contemporary. Stay tuned for a new poem every day, and find more information on the festival here.
5 South 43rd Street
by Yolanda Wisher
Sometimes we would get hungry for the neighborhood.
Walk up the sidewalk towards Chestnut Street.
Speak to the Rev holding the light-skinned baby,
ask his son to come put a new inner tube on my bike.
Cross Ludlow, past the mailbox on the corder,
Risqué Video, Dino’s Pizza, and the Emerald Laundromat.
The fruit trucks tucked into 44th Street on the left,
house eyes shut with boards, fringes of children.
Once we went into a store sunk into the street,
owned by a Cambodian woman. She sold everything,
from evening gowns to soup. Over to Walnut and 45th,
where the Muslim cat sells this chicken wrapped in pita,
draped in cucumber sauce. The pregnant woman
behind the counter writes our order out in Arabic.
We grab a juice from the freezer, some chips,
eye the bean and sweet potato pies.
Back into the hot breath of West Philly, sun is setting.
The sky is smeared squash, tangerines in a glaze.
Three girls and one boy jump doubledutch. A white man
hustles from the video store with a black plastic bag.
We look for money in the street, steal flowers
from the church lawn. The shit stain from the wino
is still on our step. Mr. Jim is washing a car for cash.
John is cleaning his rims to Buju Banton.
Noel is talking sweetly to the big blue-eyed woman.
Linda, on her way to the restaurant. The sister
in the wheelchair buzzes by with her headphones on.
One night, a man was shot and killed on this block,
right outside our thick wood door. But not today.
Today is one of those days to come home from walking
in the world, leave the windows open, start a pot of
black beans. Smoke some Alice Coltrane. Cut up
some fruit, toenails. Hold on to the moment
as if time is taking your blood pressure.
Yolanda Wisher is the 2016-2017 Poet Laureate of the City of Philadelphia. Wisher is the author of Monk Eats an Afro and the co-editor of Peace is a Haiku Song. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Fence, Chain, MELUS, PUBLICPOOL, Hanging Loose, and GOOD Magazine and the anthologies Gathering Ground and The Ringing Ear. Wisher is a 2016 Hedgebrook Writer-in-Residence, 2015 Pew Fellow, Center for Performance and Civic Practice Catalyst Initiative grantee (2015), Leeway Art & Change Award recipient (2008), and the inaugural Montgomery County Pennsylvania Poet Laureate (1999). She holds an M.A in English/Creative Writing-Poetry from Temple University and a B.A. in English/Black Studies from Lafayette College. Wisher founded and directed the Germantown Poetry Festival (2006-2010), served as Director of Art Education for the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program (2010-2015), and worked as Chief Rhapsodist of Wherewithal for the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (2014-2016). She lives in Germantown with her partner Mark Palacio and their son Thelonious.