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July 1, 2008 The Arsenal, Central Park, New York City From the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

Born in Philadelphia in 1968, Gregory Pardlo's first book, Totem, received the American Poetry Review/ Honickman Prize in 2007. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry ReviewBoston ReviewCallalooGulf CoastHarvard ReviewThe NationPloughsharesTin House, and Best American Poetry 2010, as well as several anthologies including Angles of Ascent, the Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. He is the recipient of a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship and a fellowship in translation from the National Endowment for the Arts. He has received other fellowships from the New York Times, the MacDowell Colony, the Lotos Club Foundation and Cave Canem. He is an Associate Editor of Callaloo, and his second collection, Digest, is forthcoming from Four Way Books.

Atlantic City Sunday Morning

Gregory Pardlo
                  Plow-piled snow shrouded 
         in shadow from the abbreviating sun, snow 
frosted with the exhaust of tour buses. Pigeons shift in congress. 
                  Sun glints windshields & chrome 
         like cotton blooms in the monitors. Surveillance here is catholic. 

From cornices cameras oscillate like raven-heads 
                  nestled along palisades. Cameras mind entrances,
                       pedestrians, traffic, 
          the landscape from land's end to Baccarat Boulevard. I tend
the security station, notice briefly among these half-dozen screens, 
                  a phantom looping through the busy breeze-way & out 

         of view. Unseasonable sparrows mating? Something 
clutched like a gambler's fist, keening a halo from daylight 
                  folded across the corridor like gift-wrap. 
        Little tumbleweed, if you are sparrows, you are bishops
of risk wrestling toward pain's bursaries. Jake and angel I believe 

                    I could have conjured that woman now entering 
          the asphalt current to protect you. Mira! she might be saying. But
she'd be speaking to me. Waving her cashier's apron against traffic,
                    through the street like a banner out to where 
          her good deed is witnessed. Out to where I interpret her behavior 

as censure. As if the pixels of light depicting the world she is framed in
                   were impastoed by me to the monitor's glass canvass (to
                        be arranged 
         according to the obligation of my anonymous nobility), 
what good could I do 
                  to alter the facts of the world as it hustles around her? 
                       What odds 

         do those birds stand to chance anyway? 
Prevention is akin to greed. Say recovery 
                   and a sermon salts the air. Consider the postcards here 
         on the counter beside me. They'll do no more than carry the
             word of their 
senders, speak pictures: Jersey's domed capital looks like a junkyard 

                   of church bells, a reliquary of Sundays 
          wracked and laid to rest. Noble martyr, Trenton fears no law
of diminishing returns, says it "makes, 
                   the world takes:" Another prays the next wet pebble 
         be the one that makes a beach. Paydirt. We should be so lucky. 
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From Totem, published by the American Poetry Review. Copyright © 2007 by Gregory Pardlo. Used with permission.

From Totem, published by the American Poetry Review. Copyright © 2007 by Gregory Pardlo. Used with permission.

Gregory Pardlo

Born in Philadelphia in 1968, Gregory Pardlo's first book, Totem, received the American Poetry Review/ Honickman Prize in 2007. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in American Poetry ReviewBoston ReviewCallalooGulf CoastHarvard ReviewThe NationPloughsharesTin House, and Best American Poetry 2010, as well as several anthologies including Angles of Ascent, the Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry.

by this poet

poem

                       

                         I found the scrap of City Paper
classified, the 1-900 number and photos
like candidates there, in love’s voting machine.

Discomfort station. No pissoir. Hothouse maybe for
a fourteenth-year sprig: me. Light box
to slideshow the

poem
for Jackson Pollack

on the bar of the Cedar Tavern: the shot 
that got spilled after you'd taken several rounds,
making the oak bar report 
your vigor each time with the glass 
emptied of its mayhem. 
Before the impulse could travel its course 
to spark your hand reaching again for the glass, 
Creeley's
poem
Paul Green
Of course I know the story of the scorpion
and the frog. I've known Biggers all my life.
I’ve cast down my buckets where I've
stood with them, shoulder to shoulder, our bodies
bent like double helices in the fields. And
when the mob came for Dick didn’t I sit anyways
outside his quarters all