poco a poco

former anchor and bolt factory
in the sketchiest part of lower,
lower down-town
toxic dump, piled high with trash
along the polluted Platte
all my idealistic eyes saw
was a renaissance arts incubator
visions of thriving creativity touching thousands
dreams forged in tumultuous emergence
‘whose flame is the imprisoned lightening’*
pulling rusted nails atop ladders
through the melting heat of summer
perennially terrified of heights
in your dark interior
smelling of oil and decay
wrenching a back long degraded by poverty

amabile

an idea worth engaging
after the ash of terrorism
filled our lungs with suffering
still blind to ideology’s deadlier side
abandoned building an ever present
reminder of horrors
I’d swing in the shadows
absorbing fear and poison
fantasizing about healing through art
about becoming the ‘Mother of Exiles’*
others escaped in cocaine, marijuana, and wine stupors
(they frightened me more than the terrorists)
but I wanted to feel and still act
weep on the dusty, frigid concrete
daring myself to stay
replaying little match girl scenes from my childhood

a capriccio

an ungainly thing, not quite coming together
I began to love you; the neighbors were a bit leery
tottering ever on the brink of survival
dumpster diving for office furniture
roaming commercial spaces
surreal landscapes of the impoverished
reaching out to those with even less
that underbelly of America
she kept smashing plates to build collages
floors soaked with industrial grime
they put up a slide on the stairs
lending to the murderous carnival atmosphere
something had to be done

appassionato

savior complex in overdrive
overzealous cheerleader
my overachieving rocket roared
your time arrived as others saw your worth
sacrifices of body and mind to your cause
(my left arm still aches all the time)
hundreds came together
scoured for every penny
exploited every opportunity
the revolution received matching grants from the crown
to feed you, cradle you so that one day
you could proclaim:
‘Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
the wretched refuse of your teeming shore’*

allargando con brio

you gained strength as your influence spread
became the magnanimous gift of the community
inspiring others to acts of expression and reclamation
‘beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome
send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door’*
affecting change, inspiring emotion

pesante macando

like the Eames film portraying
America to Moscow
at the height of the Cold War
it was propaganda

sotto voce

as the shroud is placed
upon your remains
we bow our heads,
at least it was honest

*Lines from ‘The New Colossus’ by Emma Lazarus, 1883 which is inscribed on a plaque at the Statue of Liberty in NYC.

Personal Note: After the shock of 9/11 I came together with many talented, intelligent, and compassionate artists to build a community arts center that provided some 85,000 people with art therapy, arts instruction, and exhibition opportunities. I spent 7 years of my life working to make the organization successful. Four years ago I left as the Executive Director confident that I had nurtured, grown, and provided for her so she’d continue to flourish. This week I found out they will be closing their doors, ending almost 11 years of programming for historically underserved populations. A devastating blow.

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