Walking Down Park

walking down park   
amsterdam
or columbus do you ever stop
to think what it looked like
before it was an avenue
did you ever stop to think
what you walked   
before you rode   
subways to the stock   
exchange (we can’t be on
the stock exchange   
we are the stock   
exchanged)

did you ever maybe wonder
what grass was like before   
they rolled it
into a ball and called   
it central park
where syphilitic dogs
and their two-legged tubercular
masters fertilize
the corners and side-walks
ever want to know what would happen
if your life could be fertilized
by a love thought   
from a loved one
who loves you

ever look south
on a clear day and not see
time’s squares but see
tall Birch trees with sycamores   
touching hands
and see gazelles running playfully   
after the lions
ever hear the antelope bark
from the third floor apartment

ever, did you ever, sit down
and wonder about what freedom’s freedom
would bring
it’s so easy to be free
you start by loving yourself   
then those who look like you   
all else will come
naturally

ever wonder why
so much asphalt was laid
in so little space
probably so we would forget   
the Iroquois, Algonquin
and Mohicans who could caress   
the earth

ever think what Harlem would be
like if our herbs and roots and elephant ears   
grew sending
a cacophony of sound to us
the parrot parroting black is beautiful black is beautiful   
owls sending out whooooo’s making love ...   
and me and you just sitting in the sun trying
to find a way to get a banana tree from one of the monkeys   
koala bears in the trees laughing at our listlessness

ever think its possible
for us to be
happy

Nikki Giovanni, “Walking Down Park” from The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni. Copyright © 1996 by Nikki Giovanni. Used with the permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
Source: The Collected Poems of Nikki Giovanni (2003)
More Poems by Nikki Giovanni