She slips like a cat through traffic,
a girl alone downtown
for the first time, subwayfare in her purse,
fear of losing it
clamping her chest,
wind whipping tears from her eyes,
fried grease and gasoline in her nose, shoes and
jewelry in shopwindows, a spike
of freedom stitching her scalp--
though she dreads the allergy shots at the clinic
she feels herself getting brave.
Now it begins to snow on Central Park South
and a flight of pigeons
whirs up from a small pile of junk in the gutter
grey, violet, green, a predatory shimmer.
The marquee of the Paris Theater
looks at the ecstatic child
through downcast lashes, condescendingly.
I see her over a distance of fifty years.
How small she is in her thin coat.
I offer a necklace of tears, orgasms, words.
copyright2001 Alicia Ostriker
Alicia Ostriker is the author of nine volumes of poetry, includingThe Imaginary Lover, which won the 1986 William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America, and The Crack in Everything (1996), which was a National Book Award finalist and won both the Paterson Poetry Prize and the San Francisco State Poetry Center Award.
Her most recent book of poems, The Little Space: Poems Selected and New, 1968-1998, was a National Book Award finalist and a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Award of the Academy of American Poets. A new volume, The Volcano Sequence, is due in spring 2002. Ostriker teaches English and Creative Writing at Rutgers University. She can be reached through her website at: