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Sample Poems by Kirby Olson
Christmas at Rockefeller Center

after Marianne Moore

I, too, dislike it: the requisite Norwegian Spruce,
the hanging of 30,000 ornaments, the mad search
through Saks for the perfect gift. Stuffing oneself
with stuffing. Dressing in scarves and mittens,
venturing out to see the manger at St. Patrick's,

wooden animals, wooden Jesus, red poinsettias.
The city walks together, walks and looks.
There is caroling in whitened streets-some hold
a candle in one hand, some the hand of a child.
I point out the Swarovski star atop the tree,

but something else haunts the scene-a ghost.
Her gypsy resolve beneath five vintage coats,
her ragged clothing and shopping bags,
she is a department store that failed,
lying in the pew with an Eastern European scarf.

Thirty-five feet in radius, the wide berth of her stench.
What mystery is in the shopping bags?
Where are her mother and father? Does she dream
of childhood in a Polish village? In her
we discover, after all, a place for the genuine.


the moment
the particular

with the infinite
the moment

she looks
at her watch
and realizes

that our millennium
is over
or that she's late

for brunch
with the mayor
or that she's

on time
for the meeting
with the school board

Particulars from a Doorman

Snow floats about in flakes,
about the head of the Statue of Liberty,
about Times Square and the George
Washington Bridge, Harlem,
and in Brooklyn's Prospect Park:
confetti to celebrate the New Year.

As I drink decaf coffee
in the Times Square Marriott, I do
the crossword, and wonder where
the stars such as Bob and Bing
have gone, where the horses
of Central Park and the swans
of Prospect, as snows
accumulate on the Cross Bronx.

I ask the doorman. Snow accretion
is removed by administrative fiat, he says, as
beeping yellow trucks take it to the melters.
Trecan Snow Melters cost a half million dollars.
They can handle eighty tons of snow in an hour.

The melters are less delicate, I think,
than the lettering on an Oreo cookie,
or the elegant curves of the metal on a fire engine,
an index finger in a cool glass of milk,
a model's arm along a walnut banister, or
the quiet of a thread falling in a museum.

As the noisy machines melt the snow,
they push it down the alabaster sewers to treat it,
before releasing it back into the Hudson.
Sixty melters can clear a blizzard in one night:
giving us a New Year's Day that starts out right.


Beauty's a woman
with a triple nose piercing
in a battered Chevy pick-up.

Outside Family Dollar
she waits while her 18-year-old boyfriend
runs in to buy her a pack of Salem Lights.

He comes back out, thirteen cents short.
She digs in her purse, finds a quarter
with green gum stuck on it,

then feeds organic mango sauce
to the baby she couldn't bear
to abort.

The Bus

"Poetry is the mother tongue of the human race."
-Georg Hamann

The bus crawls through burbs.
Hungry from fasting.
I read Hamann,
blow bubbles, sleep.
Couples talk about France,
of course.
The bus stinks,
perfume's stale.
I sleep in engine
snores, wake up
three miles past my stop.