I’ll be revising this poem until November 4th, when I’ll read it aloud on the streets of Albany, New York, the city in which I live.
I structured this poem with sturdy, utilitarian, four-line stanzas in order to create in readers and listeners a sensation of stability and proportion — desirable qualities of houses and other buildings that have been skillfully constructed, that will remain standing for a long time.
I’m investing this poem with Spanish-language words and images. I often hear people speaking Spanish in my city’s public library, commercial gym, grocery stores, businesses.
by Therese L. Broderick
~ to give birth (literally, to give light)
I stand with friends to face the vacant
Threshold at the foot of this front door,
This once-upon-a-time dwelling,
Our tomorrow’s casa con vistas.
From an upper window is lullabying
An illumination, bulbs whose soft throats
Pulse bright & dim as if breathing in sync
With the flashing reds of nocturne airplanes
Or with the flaring greens of lightning bugs
Who lease the grassy orphan lots stretching
From the Hudson River to the Mohawk,
Sand Creek to the mouth of the Normanskill.
I stand with friends to offer this place
My words, las palabras, my voice, la voz
Let us assemble, together, a radiant shrine
To be called Nuestro Santuario:
Silver frames that harbor photos or sketches
Of the people who inhabited
These rooms, stairwells, porches, roofs;
Who died in the front parlor, who gave birth
To children in a wallpapered third-story
Bedroom. Let us offer a gold-ribbon bow
For every soldier who kissed his mother
Goodbye from this sidewalk; and a vase cut
From crystal, or a shiny bottle of brown blown glass,
Filled with tap water and the stemmed
Blossoms of tulips or storm cellar roses—
For every warrior missing in action;
Let us set down a notebook of scrawled recipes
For every housewife who had to leave behind
A flaming kitchen, departing too frantically
To rescue her mother’s cookbook;
Let us place here a worn wooden toy or rubber ball
For every child who ever yearned to crawl,
Stand, walk, run, skip, hopscotch, or jump over
Ropes held taught by friends living down the block.
Let us be quiet, too—un silencio nocturno
Inviting the placid moon, la luna de paz,
Phase by phase to occupy evening’s cradles.
Door wells, window sills, altars, welcome mats.