26th Street, With Landslide (Tuesday, April 30, 2014)
Once I wrote a poem called “Blue Pool”
in which I aimed for the voice
of the five-year-old I must have been
when I teetered along the blackened stones
of the wall that kept Twenty-Sixth Street
from falling onto the railroad tracks
Tall strong Callie in her blue
uniform. Me waving at the conductor
of the Royal Blue, a famous Pullman car.
Me dying to get to swim in the electric
blue of Lakewood Swimming Pool,
might-white and mighty-white-trashy,
wrong side of the tracks quite literally.
Greasers hanging around the Wurlitzer.
Callie kept me from falling off the wall.
Now the wall has fallen and with it
all that block of Twenty-Sixth Street,
the whole sweet gaslight block between
St. Paul Street and Lovegrove Alley,
all its asphalt and parked cars,
leaving a row of sagging houses–
good old city girls still putting up
a brave front in their pinks and blues.
It’s as if they had always meant
to throw themselves into Lakewood Pool
aglow on the other side of the tracks
before the city filled it up with Progress.
Evacuated, empty-eyed, they lean
toward that seductive pool today.
Maybe they hear its buried jukebox play.
Full Fathom Five
“The search for the lost plane is the hardest search in history.”—CNN, April, 2014
“The hardest search in history”:
Hardly an hour goes by without CNN’s
search for new words to crackle
in our ears, how Flight 370 makes
history, makes it deeper with each day.
History tells us other histories, seas,
searches. The Roman barge lost millennia ago
in the sea near Arles. Cellphone voices of
the Asian children trapped today in a sunk boat,
hardest, surely, of sounds to bear.
Hard not to consider the Titanic
search, harder still to ignore how
history verges into myth, where
“those were pearls that were his eyes”
in the sonar of our minds thrums horror.
In front of the TV I think I hear
the water-blurred noise of ten thousand years’
searches, the failed and the finding,
history always doomed to repetition.
Hard by the Breton coast
hardly touched by time women
in starched caps which salt air wilts
search the shoals for ghosts of grandfathers’
the bones of their sea-bleached
histories. Everywhere widows walk
the walk of wondering– where, how?–
hardest of all grievings, I think. I think the
searching, hand-shaded eyes of each watcher
in the mist is the hardest search in all the
history of the deep wet world.
© Clarinda Harriss
Clarinda Harriss has been writing for more than 70 years and taught English for 50 of those years, first in the public schools and then at Beltway U (half a dozen part-time jobs in Howard and Baltimore County and Baltimore City), finally landing happily at Towson University where she remained for 40 years. She has also directed BrickHouse Books, “Baltimore’s Best” small press, for 40 years. Her most recent book is her first collection of short fiction, The White Rail.