by Jéanpaul Ferro

New York City is like
Shakespeare on a bad night,

A million spinning mules, spinning
red threads, blue threads, green,

Cosmopolitan, atmospheric,
and momentous in equal proportions,

Gothic, Beaux-Arts exemplar,
Italian Renaissance, Art Deco, Modern,

All 102 floors and 1252 feet
of the Empire State,

In Chinatown the smell of vegetables,
fish, and meat cooking,

In Little Italy garlic in tomato sauce
with basil and oregano,

North and south, east and west,
stoplights turn red to green on a dime,

3rd Avenue is a wonder of the world,
a glass and metal Grand Canyon,

New York Harbor penciled in blue
down along Lower Manhattan,

There is a black man pointing a white man
over toward the Avenue of the Americas,

On 7th and 8th Avenue there are eyes
looking ahead for a thousand years,

Thousands of flesh and blood inhabitants
walking to work each morning,

Some with this stunning, indifferent look
of beauty on their face—

Jews, Arabs, Asians, Indians,
Pakistanis, Dominicans, Italians, Irish,

Hundreds huddled together in Battery Park
like the ’58 Giants at Yankee Stadium,

Energy and optimism everywhere,
hopelessness and despair everywhere,

On the subway you can smell crayons,
urine, perspiration, and oranges,

The sweet smell of perfume, of hairspray,
an Italian grinder with vinegar and oil on it,

Yes, the pink spark of gunfire
shot off all night long,

Rapists, murderers, and pedophiles
down at the 26th Street Station,

Every day and night
a life at war within itself,

Ellis Island and the Statute of Liberty
shimmering off in the distance,

The bridges of New York encircling the city—
the George Washington, the Bayonne, the Whitestone,

the Throg’s Neck, the Verrazano Narrows,
Othmar Ammann built all these bridges,

If you’re not walking or driving on one
then you might be jumping off one soon,

That’s just the way it is when there are
fabulous fools around every corner,

On Beaver Street, Gold Street, Park Row,
Rector, Liberty, pick a name for a street,

This is the capital of the world; a terrorist’s target;
ground zero; a bull’s eye; fool’s gold;

the Big Apple; “If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere.”
Yeah, sure, why not?

Listen to the music, boys/girls; buy a ticket to the show;
die at dinner at Times Square,

Make sure you bet on the Yankees,
hope on the Mets, and don’t think about the Jets;

You can picture yourself on the cover of a Playbill, or
you can place yourself in the middle of the bible,

But go to Half King’s for a BLT after that;
and then pull up your pants, and be a player;

Stand on the wide shoulders of the mountain—
All these things are just fine in Manhattan.

It is truly going to be okay.

Essendo Morti - Being Dead (Goldfish Press, 2009)

Jéanpaul Ferro's picture

A 10-time Pushcart Prize nominee, Jéanpaul Ferro’s work has appeared on National Public Radio, Contemporary American Voices, Columbia Review, Emerson Review, Connecticut Review, Sierra Nevada Review, Portland Monthly, Rattle Magazine, Arts & Understanding Magazine, and others. He is the author of All The Good Promises (Plowman Press, 1994), Becoming X (BlazeVox Books, 2008), You Know Too Much About Flying Saucers (Thumbscrew Press, 2009), Hemispheres (Maverick Duck Press, 2009) Essendo Morti – Being Dead (Goldfish Press, 2009), nominated for the 2010 Griffin Prize in Poetry; and Jazz (Honest Publishing, 2011), nominated for both the 2012 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize and the 2012 Griffin Prize in Poetry. He is represented by the Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency. Website: * E-mail:

Last updated August 30, 2011