Atlantic City Sunday Morning
Plow-piled snow shrouded in shadow from the abbreviating sun, snow frosted with the exhaust of tour buses. Pigeons shift in congress. Sun glints windshields & chrome like cotton blooms in the monitors. Surveillance here is catholic. From cornices cameras oscillate like raven-heads nestled along palisades. Cameras mind entrances, pedestrians, traffic, the landscape from land's end to Baccarat Boulevard. I tend the security station, notice briefly among these half-dozen screens, a phantom looping through the busy breeze-way & out of view. Unseasonable sparrows mating? Something clutched like a gambler's fist, keening a halo from daylight folded across the corridor like gift-wrap. Little tumbleweed, if you are sparrows, you are bishops of risk wrestling toward pain's bursaries. Jake and angel I believe I could have conjured that woman now entering the asphalt current to protect you. Mira! she might be saying. But she'd be speaking to me. Waving her cashier's apron against traffic, through the street like a banner out to where her good deed is witnessed. Out to where I interpret her behavior as censure. As if the pixels of light depicting the world she is framed in were impastoed by me to the monitor's glass canvass (to be arranged according to the obligation of my anonymous nobility), what good could I do to alter the facts of the world as it hustles around her? What odds do those birds stand to chance anyway? Prevention is akin to greed. Say recovery and a sermon salts the air. Consider the postcards here on the counter beside me. They'll do no more than carry the word of their senders, speak pictures: Jersey's domed capital looks like a junkyard of church bells, a reliquary of Sundays wracked and laid to rest. Noble martyr, Trenton fears no law of diminishing returns, says it "makes, the world takes:" Another prays the next wet pebble be the one that makes a beach. Paydirt. We should be so lucky.
From Totem, published by the American Poetry Review. Copyright © 2007 by Gregory Pardlo. Used with permission.
Gregory Pardlo's second poetry collection, Digest (Four Way Books, 2014), received the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry and was shortlisted for the 2015 NAACP Image Award.
Date Published: 2007-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/atlantic-city-sunday-morning