Among the women in tank tops, backs arched, slow pacing,
Among the young men riding small wobbling bikes against traffic,
Among the rows of row homes, standing like beggars waiting for money,
Waiting furiously while they fall into gravity,
There must be some comfort.
A cat on the house-dressed lap of the woman at the window, purring,
A child born clean who can live on the milk of her mother,
on donated diapers, and sleep on the bed pushed to the wall.
But little comfort compared to what could be,
Compared to what is, six miles down Admiral Wilson Boulevard,
Where children learn Latin and spurt when their talent’s seen,
Where they play and fall asleep in quiet rooms lined with books,
Where they learn in book-filled rooms, not falling asleep,
Where they are never quoted in the paper as wanting to be
a doctor or lawyer when they grow up,
Because that’s not impossible, not surprising, not poignant.
On a street where half the houses are empty skulls,
The girls don’t see doctors until they are mothers,
And babies lick lead when they taste their fingers
or play in the dirt of the lot next door.
I sing the schools of Camden,
Where the pages of the books are softened and browned,
Where the facts in the books are no longer true,
Where the maps are the waterspots high on the ceiling,
Where the teachers are afraid, live elsewhere, leave early.
I sing the children who outnumber this city
Because they are the quickest, cheapest form of hope.
I sing the songs they might have written
if they’d been born one town over.
And on the Boulevard, I sing
More than billboards of girls with eyepatches
promising to dance on couches,
More than women at bus stops, where they can’t be arrested,
Waiting for men to use their tight-dressed curves,
More than men who walk the bridge from Philly,
without gloves or socks, in search of warm meals.
I sing day care, a movie theater and no discount liquor,
A supermarket, a bank that lends, no go-go,
And a fence down the median, so five more each year
Can live instead of dying for the cheaper sixpack.
For more of Tina’s work: https://cavankerrypress.org/product/abloom-awry/