Souls from Emerson

This is a kind of sunflower,
only smaller and less demanding,
on a side street in Phillipsburg
faced away from the tuck fumes and the air horns.

It replaces the dead beehives and tobacco leaves,
bowed over from exhaustion,
and crawls over the side of the bird house and the wire fence
like a morning glory or daisy.

I come back here twice,
once to climb the hill
and once to touch the old head
and break a leaf off at the stem.

And I come back to see if I can find
the whitewashed wall
and hear the wild dog again
and see his fenced-in garden, the souls outside

going up and down like souls from Emerson,
trying to find a home on Marshall Street
beside the clothes pins and the oil drum,
near the slush and the pink mimosa—

left on the Parkway just before Jacob’s Auto Parts,
across from the green island separating
the cars rushing west to Cleveland and Ypsilanti
and the cars rushing east to Whitehouse and Coney Island.

:: Gerald Stern, Paradise Poems (1984)

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