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poetry


WEST FOURTH STREET
by
Alicia Ostriker

The sycamores are leafing out

on west fourth street and I am weirdly old

yet their pale iridescence pleases me


as I emerge from the subway into traffic

and trash and patchouli gusts—now that I am retired

pleasure is permitted to me


I have less

interfering with my gaze now

what I see I see clearly


and with less grievance and anger than before

and less desire: it is not that I have conquered these passions

they have worn themselves out


if I smile admiring four Brazilian men

playing handball on a sunny concrete court

shouting in Portugese


thin gloves protecting their hands from the sting of the flying ball

their backs like sinewy roots, gold flashing on their necks

if I watch them samba with their shadows


torqued like my father fifty years ago

when the sons of immigrant Jews

played fierce handball in Manhattan playgrounds


—if I think these men are the essence of the city

it is because of their beauty

since I have learned to be a fool for beauty



West Fourth Street by Alicia Ostriker is the 2007 Anderbo Poetry Prize "Poem of Distinction" for which she receives a plaque. Alicia Ostriker has published eleven volumes of poetry, most recently The Volcano Sequence (Pittsburgh 2002) and No Heaven (Pittsburgh 2005). She is the author of Stealing the Language: The Emergence of Womenís Poetry inAmerica (Beacon 1986) and other books on poetry and on the Bible. Her most recent prose work is Dancing at the Devilís Party: Essays on Poetry,Politics, and the Erotic (Michigan 2002), She has received awards and fellowships from the NEA, the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, the Poetry Society of America, and the San Francisco State Poetry Center, among others, and has been twice a finalist for the National Book Award. Ostriker lives in Princeton, NJ, is Professor Emerita of English at Rutgers University, and teaches in the low-residency Poetry MFA program of New England College.



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