Rigorous
Volume Three, Issue 1



Yvonne


Cornered

North
The bus step lowers elder injury—
Touted “a kneeling bus” the last century.
This shifting intersection portends suspense:
Strange white sign behind a black iron fence
Rising where the private grass begins
And the public sidewalk ends.

Without translation, this real estate sign
Is a mystery, kin to mute abstract design
More than calligraphy. Korean (I had guessed
Before checking the Roman alphabet)
Proclaims Emmanuel Church holding the lease
For this iconic Gothic edifice.

Osteopathy. As a girl I wondered
How to pronounce when first I wandered
By this grand rambling place, a college then,
On foot or on Mother’s war-time bike. Alien
Brown, had I breached slippery walls?
To this day, the word gives me pause.

To city limits student doctors have flown,
Yet propagate a farther-flung mission.
Summer gospels bloom in their stead—
A plastic playground where the deacon bled.
What creed for this slithery future?
A child’s joy, the everlasting suture.

South
Jersey truck farm? Old grade school tests unwind
This play on words, a weak silent joke
As I walk past a dingy white hulk
Crammed with staples—the eating kind—
Potatoes, carrots, collards, yams—a discount crop,
Curbed between the northbound #64 Bus stop
And a dollar shop entry. The spot never empty
Like a plain folk white knight sentry.

Another truck I saw while living in Germantown.
A twin? Or the same? Both a homegrown
Solution like tent cities of the Great Depression.
Then and now, no pinch-penny customer
Toppled bricks and mortar. Old neighbors mourn
Mother’s Acme or rival A & P. Each a dinosaur
Now vanished from these cornered streets.
What can I do? So guilty with dollar shop sweets.

Yet I pause, if not pray, at each south-end corner—
Either west where the kosher deli ruled
Or east where Dewey’s diner jazz wooed.
That first romantic summer I remember
Pretending to unlearn my bookish world.
Years dawned, set. Brawls snuffed Dewey’s cool.
A pistol pumped the deli man still.
Harvest stunned to…whenever.




58th and Walnut

On the northeast corner, without spires
Or bell towers as signals on the horizon,
A synagogue stood. Stone still stands, wisdom
And worry now passed to darker elders
At late morning stretch and coffee hours.
Pure this and that in rear-view mirrors.

On the northwest side, Christian Sabbath
Jumps with unshackled joy, yet pilgrim
Solemn in the bosom of Abraham—
Who wrestles for me the whirlwind’s wrath?
Water from the Rock! Light on a thorny Path!
We have come this far by Faith!

On the southside, the high school spans
Two traffic lights. “You’re eating your white bread.”
“Just stay in school.” That’s all Mother’s elders said.
They fed those girls to the wolves. Ignorance
They thought wisdom. Or did they pray pretense?
Where to stand, to bend with prevailing winds?

Visiting daughter, I trace an old crisis.
That third-grade autumn of turnabout,
Zigzag, camouflage, and scout,
With Mother-gripped hand I criss-crossed
Near here a grid of black and white distress.
One night I fled from home, flounced two blocks—FROZE




The Mural

Beyond a river and three
Dozen stop-and-go lights
An apartment brick wall

Wears a windowless face.
Tucked from tourist selfies,
Gourmet truck foodies,
Gym-toned bikers,

Three stories emblazon this trace.
(Somebody’s 60-plus Momma?)
That’s what they sometimes do
With a blank wall
Beside an orphan lot

In this city.
“Pioneer of 58th Street”
Framed forever by roses and vines
(Was she a gardener?)
But fading, a bit gray
(Copied from an auto I.D.?)

A kind steady gaze, a bit weary
(Of this delinquent lot?)
Above the blind foot traffic.
I want to believe.
I, one of the homely hoofers,
Slipping by sometimes
A wilderness

Of six-foot tall weeds,
The intrepid race
Rising above…


First poetry editor of pioneer feminist Aphra and Ms., Yvonne received poetry awards including from NEA (1974, 1984) and from Leeway (2003) for fiction (as Yvonne Chism-Peace). Some anthologies featuring her poems are: 161 One-Minute Monologues from Literature (Smith and Kraus), This Sporting Life (Milkweed), Catholic Girls (Plume/Penguin), Tangled Vines (HBJ), Celebrations: A New Anthology of Black American Poetry (Follett), Pushcart Prize Anthology and We Become New (Bantam). In-progress is a verse memoir.




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