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WHITE PLAINS

My first time in Manhattan I was amazed,

walking down Madison from the Park.

Yellow cabs and subway trains from A to Z

I knew – but there were buses, a plenitude,

most seemingly destined not for The Bronx

or The Bowery but White Plains.

My ignorance pictured some far distant place,

almost Arthurian, in the Mid-West,

from where travellers might never return.

 

This was the city of Sipowicz,

Homicide Detective and Everyman;

of lives wasted in the garish, pulsing streets,

in the brownstone apartments of the rich,

the challenged, and the modest; a city

of small victories for humanity,

of humble, humbling journeys of the soul.

 

This was the city of, at least, one

genius on every other corner.

J. Robert Oppenheimer was born

on Riverside Drive. Enrico Fermi,

exiled, researched at Columbia.

 

Albert Einstein’s letter to Roosevelt

tick-tocked in a safe in a skyscraper,

opposite City Hall, where five thousand

civil servants clocked-in covertly.

The uranium was warehoused near the port.

Brighter than a thousand suns, the bomb’s fulgent,

multitudinous clouds wasted what they touched.

 

White Plains is a suburb twenty miles north

of mid-town. There is a Bloomingdale’s,

a Macy’s. It occupies earth bought

with beads by immigrants, who named it

for the groves of white balsam they felled,

the river mists drifting.

 

 

 

© Copyright David Selzer
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2 Responses
  • John Huddart
    October 29, 2021

    Transporting us through continents and lifetimes, with a balanced affection and despair for America, its heroes real and imagined. Great!

  • Mary Clark
    November 7, 2021

    It’s evocative, isn’t it, the names we give places, the mysterious ones like Yonkers, and possibly attempts at translating native languages, like Secaucus. I always thought White Plains meant the tremendous amount of snow they get every year. Then there’s the race implication. From you I learn the real source of the name!

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