Writers Institute

From Brownstone Steps

August is lazier uptown,
where the tenements tower
above littered lots like
jagged teeth
and the red bodega lights
yawn at the dusk.

chalk dust,
De La Vega murals of dead heroes,
lingering sounds of double dutch ropes
whipping the fault lines in the sidewalk

Uptown, on a forgotten side street
still warm from the languished afternoon,
the black and red fire hydrant regurgitates water,
spewing like an angry hose,
flooding the curb,
gum wrappers and cigarette butts
setting sail in the raging puddle.
A man with a raisin face watches
from his perch on the broken brownstone steps,
the can of Colt 45 germinating at his feet
alongside the weeds.

the Puerto Rican flag leaning out the windowsill,
the tides of sirens that climax and then withdraw,
the tumbleweed garbage bag
rolling down the street, a bloated plastic ghost

Salsa music dances down
from the third floor fire escape,
the metal railing unable to cage the notes.
Negative space joins positive space
as a young
Miss Spanish Harlem
whips her hips in
a primal rhythm,
catwalking through the neighborhood
with the click-click cadence
of stilettos.

Allegra Johnson
New York City
Teacher: Mrs. Rinden




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