Aerial View of Camden, New Jersey, 2012

benfranklin bridge

“In a dream I saw a city invincible.”

-Walt Whitman
(inscribed on the walls of Camden City Hall
where the great American poet spent his final years.)

View of Camden, 2104

From an aerial view, the city appears blighted
gray smoke from the Ben Franklin Bridge south
even Philly, north, fares better, those sharp-witted
lights of brilliant history.

Boarded row home. Poppy packs powder in zip-locs,
loads them into his son’s backpack, soft and squishy,
explosives up middle-school noses. Says don’t come
home without the money. Daughter struggles with
homework. Poppy says don’t bother. Not necessary.

Red brick school building. Demolition red. Teacher sets
a timer, gestures students back to their desks
for silent independent reading. She pulls out her
own Sue Grafton novel. Teacher example. Yolanda
swears in Spanish. Home language so teacher ignores.
And reads on….

Kinsey Milhone, lady detective, draws her gun
and foils the robber’s break-in…

Quason grunts, takes out his high interest, low-level
book. Snorts from the rest, but they follow…

Kinsey drives her Volkswagon down a Santa Barbara
sea side road. Wind sprays the ocean, colors are warm golden hues…

Someone passes gas. Laughter shatters, fingers pinch noses.
Teacher rolls her eyes, keeps reading. Flies swerve around Joey’s
book bag. Teacher wishes to be Kinsey.

For twenty minutes sixteen troubled students pretend to read,
sleep, swat flies. One teacher gets lost in a world where
lady detectives solve all the problems.

-Leigh Mackelvey



3 thoughts on “Aerial View of Camden, New Jersey, 2012

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