Poem of the Week | February 17, 2020

Amy M. Alvarez’s poetry is forthcoming or has been published in PRISM international, The Missouri Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Sugar House Review, Rattle, and elsewhere. She is a VONA Fellow and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is currently working on a poetry collection, Knuckle & Claw. Originally from Queens, New York, Amy now lives in West Virginia and teaches writing at West Virginia University.


149th Street Notebook


The psychic on the corner toted grocery bags past neon
signs in her windows, run in her stocking inching up shin.

I scooped garter snakes from sidewalk cracks. My cats captured cicadas—
fluttering green jewels in their pink mouths. Ma never let us keep them.

That corner always needed a streetlight:
boy’s blood on asphalt given as testimony.

I can still see sunset behind the church steeple.
Above juniper’s canopy: magenta sky and crows, crows, crows.

It wasn’t lost on us that the expressway was named Utopia.
There never was any question, was there?


Author’s Note

This poem was an attempt to conjure memories of the street my family lived on until I was seventeen. Neighborhoods in New York City evolve so quickly that the block I grew up on only exists in memory, idealized. You might say this poem is an urban pastoral. I wanted to capture the beauty of a block that was also part of a city bus route, an occasional crime scene, the site of a house I still return to in dreams.