Oye! This is an apartment building ode.
But not just any ode, an ode about breathing,
walking, jumping, running, skipping people.
An ode to a time where we’d remember what
odes felt like to read outside. An ode about
oding so hard it boxes itself into a sonnet.
Harder than bus stop benches and light rail
seats, taxes, and systemic poverty. The oding
of this poem is an apartment building sonnet
about people stacked up like bricks like words
in a sonnet. People that will tap your shoulder
to make sure you’re listening to the fact that this
poem is a token, a favor, a shirt off their back.
Oye! This is The Apartment Building Ode.
There’s Freestyle, Hip Hop, and Bachata on the steps
depending on the time of day we pick up groceries.
There are bikes by the curb and notebooks on those steps,
soda bottles, 2 quarter juices, and candy wrappers in bags.
There is a 10pm curfew for noise and the music plays
until 9:59, because the stoop DJ wakes up early too.
There are “No loitering on the stairs” signs in every hall-
way though it is understood that what we do isn’t aimless.
There is the smell of food, home-cooked or homemade,
plantains in C5, Hot Pockets in A3 and Chinese in the lobby.
There are lovers, soothsayers, tall-tale tellers, doers, hustlers,
potatoes, flowers, lighters, and so many hand gestures.
This is a concrete box that we call home.
There is a life we’ve learned to love and live.
Copyright © 2022 by Dimitri Reyes. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 18, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.
From Personae by Ezra Pound, copyright © 1926 by Ezra Pound. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved. No part of this poem may be reproduced in any form without the written consent of the publisher.