Urban Gallery

By Rachel Wetzsteon 1967–2009 Rachel Wetzsteon
When the wind invades the treetops
and the trees agree, shivering
take me, take me, when their
stealthy perfume drifts down to waft
among mortals, they come out in droves:
the boy whose bouncing keys speak a language
all their own, the novice who gets her tricks
from magazine molls (their haughtiness, swirl
of cleats), the gigolo with eyes lowered,
the better to judge his prey, the woman
whose hemlines rise as her age does,
the bad girl whose only remaining option
is to get worse: despite the string of cheats
and lukewarm reactions, she still has
the power to pound, the knack of
funneling her frustration into
the arrogant click of a heel . . .
at this armada of proud, unyielding soldiers
I have cast ferocious stones, holding forth
on barricaded gardens and souls’ communion
until, heaving my bones from garret to gutter
I took to the street and saw it, too, was worthy.
Chasers out for a good time, flirters in
for a life’s catch, strutters so skilled your
lurid designs burn holes, kill the cold
in the pavement, it does not matter
what fever you feed, so long as
you feed it freely; I hid my eyes
but sickness is catching; lovers, permit me entrance.

Rachel Wetzsteon, “Urban Gallery” from The Other Stars, published by Penguin Books, Inc. Copyright © 1994 by Rachel Wetzsteon. Reprinted by permission of Sonja Wetzsteon.

Source: The Other Stars (Penguin Books, 1994)

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Poet Rachel Wetzsteon 1967–2009

Subjects Nature, Trees & Flowers, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Rachel  Wetzsteon


Born in Manhattan, poet and editor Rachel Wetzsteon received degrees from Yale University, Johns Hopkins University, and Columbia University. She made her home in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, which is the setting for many of her formally assured poems. Influenced by Charles Baudelaire, Soren Kierkegaard, and Philip Larkin, Wetzsteon infused her urban and emotional landscapes with a dry wit. As critic Adam . . .

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SUBJECT Nature, Trees & Flowers, Social Commentaries, Cities & Urban Life

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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