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Two poems by Robert Strickland

The Literate City 


“The city is all right. To live in one 
Is to be civilized, stay up and read 
Or sing and dance all night and see sunrise 
By waiting up instead of getting up.”

- Robert Frost, inscription at the entrance to the Cobb Building, Seattle, WA

At 4th and University, 
a woman hunches, arms outstretched. 

Eyeliner weighs on lids that open and close
over too much blue shadow. She asks 

everyone who notices for six bucks; tells 
the story of her husband clutching his chest,

how she must get to her sister’s house. 
Passing people push money into her hands, 

knowing that she has been there for weeks, 
telling that same story to all who listen. 

             Here Frost is carved into the Cobb’s entrance. Locals 
             smile when I stop to read. It is June, the sun melts 
             into the hills behind the sky needle, ending a rare 
             appearance in this rainswept home of Hendrix and Nirvana. 

Bird’s solo drifts into the alley at Dimitriou’s.  
Men in slim suits hurry from office buildings 


fixated on taut calves in heels that walk ahead
on this beryl-blue evening.


            West at any cross street the sidewalks tumble down 
            for blocks to Puget Sound, where a ferry ramp 
            teems with hundreds crowding the deck, 
            trying to get home to Bainbridge Island. 


1st Avenue is a river.  People flow like schooling fish 
between Biscuit Bitch and Arundel’s Rare Books. 


Some wait out the surge sipping wine 
in the sidewalk cafes. 

            I step through gates of the closest one to grab 
            a bite and read the book I found earlier up 
            on Cap Hill. Ambling to a table near the corner, 
            the salty diesel fumes drift uphill from the Sound. 


I order, then open the book. A man walks by, glances over
and stops. “What are you reading?” he asks.


Closing the book I show him the cover. "Oh yes. 
Great book. Kinda sucks the air out of one’s dreams


but in a good way.” He smiles and walks on 
as my crab bisque arrives.


Green the

blue up

caressing each

in summer's

Trickle of

down my

a scarlet

strikes a


 "Note from the author:  'Tree' is a poem written in a newly developed poetic form called 'Dyo'.  The form was developed by Jimmy Pappas, Vice President of the New Hampshire Poetry Society."

Robert Strickland is a poet and musician living in Florida with his wife of 42 years, Dena, and their dog Miles, and their cat Petunia.  He is interested in the intersection of poetry and other art forms.  His family roots are in the American Deep South, with English, Dutch, and Native American heritage.  His work has appeared in Sheila-Na-Gig, Burning Word, Pirene's Fountain, Silver Birch Press, and others.

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