Poem of the Week | July 25, 2022

This week’s Poem of the Week is “the honeycomb of street mirrors” by MRB Chelko.

MRB Chelko is the author of Manhattations, which was selected by Mary Ruefle for the Poetry Society of America’s New York Chapbook Fellowship. Chelko’s poems appear widely chapbooks and journals including Bennington Review, Black Warrior Review, Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast, ITERANT, Sixth Finch, and Poetry International. Chelko lives in Harlem and co-hosts the performance salon, BUFFET.


the honeycomb of street mirrors

so I snap a funhouse photo
of the nonstick pan scraped
by metal tools my smile is
these days strung out this
boarded up corner used to be
the grocery store where I scrounged
for decent produce when my daughter
had just come out so much pressure
collected inside me then I feared
my guts and lungs would burst
from my shorts to the floor
I used to picture that in my head
it felt actually possible my body
some twisted tunnel of love
what fashion designer said she wanted
her apartment all decorated in red
so it resembled a garden in hell
that’s something like how it felt
at that time to consider my body
I miss that huge stroller
how everyone in New York
helped me carry it up and down stairs
now I’m the one running over
when someone is struggling like
I’ve got you lady I’ve got you
and your baby
my daughter
doesn’t want to live anywhere
but here we can’t move
not even within Harlem
she wants the same home
same couch same red metal chairs
to climb for granola bars same
ice cream spoon to sneak back
into the same metal sink
clang clang I can hear
this train circling
a free transfer is also available
to the same exact place


Author’s Note

“the honeycomb of street mirrors” is part of a sequence of 20 new meditations/lamentations I’m calling more Manhattations. When I moved to Harlem a little over a decade ago, I wrote a sequence titled Manhattations, which examined my new life in the city, often in real time. I would jot down notes as I walked from place to place or rode the train. (One of those poems, [rain pours on the unsold umbrellas] was featured as a Missouri Review Poem of the Week in 2011). I wrote more Manhattations as a companion to those early poems. The new poems were composed in the same way and in many of the same places, but with a much different relationship to the city and from a much different life lived in it.