"Two wrongs may not make a right but a thousand wrongs make a writer.”

Thursday, February 22, 2024

The Newspaper City

We walk to mass along sidewalks
slick with mist from the ocean bay.
Hulking shapes huddle in doorways
where the sun won’t ever shine
to shiver the whole night through
under newspaper blankets.
We hasten into church to kneel and pray
with Asian, Latin, and Creole speakers
as incense wafts over the pews and candles twinkle
like the flickering of the holy spirit
descending on the fortunate.


With the transubstantiation of altar bread and wine

there’s a rush from the back for the body and blood.

Confused at the lack of decorum

  (do they fear the chalice will spring a leak?)

we ease our way into the jostling line of supplicants

like automobiles jockeying for an off ramp.


With a finger dipped in the font at the door

we exit into the misty morn of a cash-strapped city.

Beggars await us on the steps with their outstretched cups.

Father always dropped a five in the tin can of the gaunt man

who sat wrapped in wool at the top of the exit ramp

on trips into a different city.


We walk back to the hotel

past darkened storefronts and empty streets.

Silent except for the rustle of newspapers. 

Written for dVerse in memory of Kurt Cobain, the legendary alternative rock musician whose birthday was this past Tuesday. Nirvana's lyrics were known for metaphor and emotional depth. Challenged to use lines from one of the songs posted in the prompt, I chose a couple that would fit this poem.  Check out Melissa's post at dVerse for more on the enigmatic Cobain, photos and lyrics. And the poets at What's Going On who've asked us  to write about "Color" so taking liberty, as this is more about the absence of color.  There are other more beautiful poems about color passing through so head over. 


Helen said...

First two lines ~~~ and I was gobsmacked!!! Great writing, Yvonne.

Vanessa Victoria Kilmer said...

This poem is so visual and full of sensory experiences. I feel like I was in a city church.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Gosh, thanks so much!!!!

Thank you. I'm glad the mood translated to the reader. It was surreal!!

Dora said...

"Under newspaper blankets" -- Just one example of brilliance, Yvonne. You draw the contrast between the sacred and profane as we mortal souls understand it with such beautiful concrete imagery that it's hard not to feel what the persona sees and feels, the keen difference between the fortunate and unfortunate, the rush for favor/blessing among "the jostling line of supplicants." -- and the ensuing sadness of the continued "rustle of newspapers" on sidewalks from generation to generation. Made me think of the verse, "the poor you will always have with you" -- until the world's end.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful poem, Yvonne! I absolutely love the seemless way you worked in the lines from "Where Did You Sleep Last Night." Beautiful, all the way through.

- Nick

brudberg said...

You paint the underbelly of society so well.. i love what you did with those lines, and I can only imagine how it is when you face the darkness among us when seeking for light.

Melissa Lemay said...

I’m glad you ended up writing for the prompt! Maybe you already had earlier, when I responded to your comment. In any case, this is wonderful. You’ve set the scene with beautiful descriptive imagery, though imagery depicting struggle and heartache. You’ve brilliantly told a story of all in need of saving, each and every one of us.

Anonymous said...

Very good, Yvonne!

Yvonne Osborne said...

Thanks anonymous!!

Thank you so much, and thank you for the prompt, one of my favorites.

Thanks, yeah..it's there right in front of us if we don't avert our eyes.

Thanks, good of you to comment. I think we jive on this.

Thank you for that comment. You're so right....the poor will always be with us. How do we react? Others would mock the person with the cup, as if they were mere beggars, as if it were their choice to sit in the cold and the rain and sleet. As if they were able to just get a job. Not my dad. He gave and he didn't care what they did with it. If they needed a smoke or a warm drink or whatever, he didn't care.

Sumana Roy said...

Everyday life of struggling souls is monochromatic indeed; the only hue is darkness. I like the work of details in the poem.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

This poem does make me see the city as lacking in colour, trapped in winter's cold. I love that your dad put a fiver in the homeless man's cup. I could feel the cold and see the city as I read.

Mary said...

You have really created quite a scene here, a vivid depiction of a slice of time - sometimes it does seem like there is a lack of color...but isn't that 'color' as well?

Susan said...

"Hulking shapes huddle in doorways
where the sun won’t ever shine.
to shiver the whole night through
under newspaper blankets."
I see the dark and the newspaper in these lines, and throughout the poem there is contrast of wealth and poverty, which suggests color and colorlessness (or at least light and dark). I see a little in "the flickering of the holy spirit / descending on the fortunate." And then the five, and the dark again. A powerful poem.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Thank you. That's what I saw too, the absence of color and that's what I remember from that morning.

That's a good question. I think it is. Thanks!

Thanks! I liked that too and admired him while some of his grandchildren scoffed. A different generation?

Thanks so much.

Anthony Duce said...

Visually sad but enjoyed the walk anyway.

Yvonne Osborne said...

Hey Tony,

rallentanda said...

Nightmarish quality about the whole experience....brilliantly expressed.To me it was the antithesis of what the celebration of a Mass should be but I haven't lived in the real world for quite some time (fortunately:)