Today’s poem is “Recuerdo” by Martin Steingesser. Martin is the author of three books of poems: Yellow Horses, Brothers of Morning, and The Thinking Heart: the Life & Loves of Etty Hillesum.
He writes, “The real inspiration for the poem was something hidden, writing the poem becoming a journey to discover what it was about the loss of the giraffe puppet that moved me deeply. There’s a strong habit of thinking, a belief that people and things held close remain with us throughout our life: the face we see in the mirror; silverware or stainless steel spoons and forks eaten with daily; a tree outside our window; loved ones. . ."
by Martin Steingesser
“What do we say anymore
to conjure the salt of our earth?
Raise it again, man."
“Leave ‘em go!” the small, six-or-seven-year old street kid
kept shouting, skipping backward just ahead of us, moving bigger kids
out of the way as we stepped forward in a giant giraffe on high stilts.
It was summer, midday heat paralyzing, a few Latina madres,
abuelitas framed in tenement windows, dark rooms behind.
A rough neighborhood with soft underbelly, salt of the poor, drugs
and money passing hand to hand in doorways, hallway stairwells.
My girlfriend and I the only gringos for blocks around, a gypsy life
maybe protecting us, ours the only apartment in the building
not broken into. Most weekends we danced on stilts with a brass band
in Central Park. I doubt anyone hadn’t seen us coming and going
in sombreros, colorful kerchiefs, flags, the stilts over shoulders.
That Sunday, roasting in our one-room flat, the band off to some theater
to perform without us, we took stilts and the two-person giraffe
down five flights and around the corner to avoid being seen suiting up.
“Leave ‘em go!” the boy shouted, “He’s beoo-ti-ful! beoo-ti-ful!”
In the shower after, as 40 years later, I hear him, his voice above
the torrid lethargy of treeless summer streets. How dwarfed
I feel beside the distance grown between us. Don’t you also
wonder where what you’ve done, who you have been, has gone?
The giraffe lies under rubble in a demolished barn, the stilts
lean against a wall in the pantry—the boy going on. Beautiful.
Poem copyright © 2019 Martin Steingesser.