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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, July 3, 2017.
About this Poem 

“From the remove of standing on a balcony and looking down on a street, it’s sometimes possible to believe in a brighter future. Writing this, I had in mind a black-and-white photograph titled Mysterium der Strasse (Mystery of the Street) taken in 1928 by the Bauhaus photographer Otto Umbehr (Umbo).”
—Mary Jo Bang

In the Street

Here we are, on top of the utopian arc. The water is shallow. An oil spill shimmers on the surface like a lens catches light and folds it in front of a mirror. If someone stands next to you, they are there, even when outside the picture. Which makes total obscurity relative to luck and such. Unlike the law, architecture lasts. A façade, like an ideal, can be oppressive unless balanced by a balcony on which you can stand and call down to those in the street, Come over here and look up at us. Aren’t we exactly what you wanted to believe in? 

Copyright © 2017 by Mary Jo Bang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 3, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2017 by Mary Jo Bang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 3, 2017, by the Academy of American Poets.

Mary Jo Bang

Mary Jo Bang

Mary Jo Bang is the author of several books of poems, including A Doll for Throwing (Graywolf Press, 2017). Her poems have been chosen three times for inclusion in the Best American Poetry series.

by this poet

poem
You know, don't you, what we're doing here?
The evening laid out like a beach ball gone airless. 

We're watching the spectators in the bleachers.
The one in the blue shirt says, "I knew, 

even as a child, that my mind was adding color 
to the moment." 

The one in red says, "In the dream, there was a child
poem

I remove my heart from its marble casing and grind that shell into glass dust and force the dust and the occupational core into a box barely big enough to hold them and watch while the self-sealing lid sets itself. I then take the contraption to a place to which I doubt I will ever find

poem
We were going toward nothing
all along. Honing the acoustics,
heralding the instant
shifts, horizontal to vertical, particle

to plexus, morning to late,
lunch to later yet, instant to over. Done
to overdone. And all against
a pet-shop cacophony, the roof withstanding

its heavy snow load. So, winter. And still
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