This post is a guest post from Joe Weitzel.

gratn street

When I was living in a roof apartment on Grant Street, a stray cat climbed the steel steps of the fire escape every morning and waited for me to open the door.  He wanted fed.  And maybe reassurance that someone is watching out for him.  And when I came home from work at the hospital, he was waiting for me…same thing…a pat on the head and a can of food

When I was away, the school crossing guard did the honors.  Every day someone in that little alley still looks out for that cat.  Poetry.  The way we take care of the least of us and string our words together to sing the body electric.  A poem opens the door and feeds the community when everything else fails.  It translates our grief and celebrations into a language that speaks to the heart.  The cat is still alive and well and being taken care of by the poet’s son and the school crossing guard and the carpenter that fashioned a house with a roof to provide shelter from the storm.

Our lives are hurricanes.  They change in the wink of an eye.  We celebrate our achievements and grieve over our losses.  I was writing in my usual spot at The Prince Street Café and I looked out at the tree growing within the little square the city gives you to plant your shade.  The mayor walks by and so do the students from the art school on Prince Street.  And the homeless come by with shopping carts stuffed full of their necessities. I think we are all in this together, united, whether we like it or not.

 

   Aloft…Tree Dedication On Prince

After the permits were signed and the city inspected the square,

                                                                               The planters came with all of the signed and sealed papers to dig the hole.

A crowd gathered on a bench the tailor shop left on the corner before he had to close the doors when

his son got sick.

Once the crews were finished and the tulip tree was tied to the stake, he said a few words and the mayor

Gave him a firm embrace

“The race is not always to the swift”, he said.

He placed the marker in front of the tree and the municipal smoothed the surrounding cement with a

Painter’s trough

Two lovers passed by my window with their portfolios and stopped to watch his father scatter his ashes…

Aloft

My son has the apartment now.  And he reluctantly has sustained the cat with a can of food each morning. And the crossing guard has her hands on the porch railing, calling out to me.  ‘Have you seen Sammy.?  This cat has so many names. And I respond with a thumbs up.  I look to my left and see the spire from Christ Lutheran Church…and down the street, the market is bustling with activity.  I’m just trying to make sense of it all…spread a little love and put it all into a poem to remind me where we are as a community.

Twelve years this cat has survived. Thrived. And all it took was a bit of kindness.  Here’s to another day!

 

                               

Even The Barbed Wire Sings…Grant Street, Lancaster, Pa.

The back door had several locks but no one knocked or asked directions.

On a third floor apartment, the steel steps are a slippery slope, even in the summer.

So stepping out and looking at the churches and the silver maples came easy.

With two hands on a rail, I could sense the autumn air and smell the red geraniums

In the flower pots along the gutter spout…not long for this world, this season.

This is where we breathe in the cityscapes and take off our shirts and drape the cloth

Over the resting bodies and the elevating voices from the choirs down below.

My song is muffled but I fall in love every day with the sparrows beaking suet

Through a steel cage hanging from a horse clip…and still the yellow air from the old grain elevators.

No one can find me here but I am visible to the woman in her place beyond the trees.

She stands there each morning when I come out and she is spinning, spinning,

Until her wind brushes up against me from the parking lot and the broken fences.

                            Even the barbed wire sings as the stray cats run along the fence line.

 

This is a special honor for me to be contributing to the Tellus 360 blog this month. Being a life long resident of Lancaster County and a city dweller for most of those years, I’ve developed a poet’s eye for the lives and events that surround us here in this great city and county.  And it was an exclusive honor to be recognized and elected by The Lancaster Literary Guild as Lancaster’s Poet Laureate.  My writing career started in the early seventies and my first published work appeared in a local magazine in nineteen seventy six.  Since then, I have written more poems than I have had pints of Guinness.  Cheers!

Joe Weitzel is a lifelong resident of the county and is Lancaster’s Poet Laureate, as well as a regular patron of Tellus360.