The Sunday Poem: Laurie Macrae . . . Roosevelt Park: Theory and Practice

A pale girl with long, silver nails is peeling
the plastic wrapping from a convenience-store burrito
with a concentration that implies
her focus is elsewhere, on the boy
who sits beside her on the front seat
with the door open to the sidewalk
which runs along the grassy border
the whole way around
Roosevelt Park

He is fingering a pile of small, folded papers
of crack lying between his legs
and watching for the customer
his angry gaze knows is not me
Beyond his view
lies the rolling grassy slope
shaded with the oldest elms
in the city where a Mexican mother and
her mother and a toddler dressed in
rows and rows of pink ruffles
are preparing a picnic supper
at a concrete table
and a little further off
the men of the family
are setting up a net to play
the weekly game of volleyball

On the higher ground of this
constructed ideal of Nature
a group of homeless street kids sit
rapt in the rhythms of Haitian drummers
who occupy the regal centrality
of this bucolic shrine
in a cloud of marijuana

At Stations of the Frisbee Golf
young men are gathered
awaiting the soaring disc of
perfectly powered flight
Their dogs beside them
every hair alert to the coming
of the possible errant symbol
a sign that can only be read by
nonhuman ears

In this Depression Era monument
to wilderness contained,
we are "negotiating" our own
territory; the No Fear Zone
It's hard
the casualties pile up
Their empty shopping carts roll aimlessly
along to the accompaniment of the ice cream vendors'
truck playing Scot Joplin's Rag,
the occasional gunshot heard
from South Broadway, the
electronic bells from St. Charles Parish
the gospel shouters from
the New Hope Baptist Church

At night the park is lit
with lamps that are hidden in the deep branches
of the giant trees
Their shadows hide the sleeping
men who live here - one for twenty years -
and in the predawn quiet
the sprinklers are startled awake,
chuckling and whispering just out of range
of understanding the ancient, forgotten
language of rivers

Laurie Macrae, Nov 8, 1996

"I wrote this years ago when I was living on Coal Street across from the park. I remember the park from childhood when girl scouts met there to go to camp in the summer. Now the park IS camp. Roosevelt Park means many things to many people. It was the largest, most ambitious park in the city for many years, until the city began to eat away at it, making a large chunk of it into a ball field, then a parking lot. (Always paving paradise..) It was in what was considered a comfortable middle class neighborhood until the growth of the eastern end of the city turned Coal and Lead into major connections to the freeways from the Heights. Proximity to the University changed the neighborhood too, and the 60’s found the park a perfect assembly point for spontaneous gatherings of all sorts. Downtown is close by and as the city abandoned downtown for the shopping malls to the East, deterioration and crime set in. But the trees still grew and it remained magisterial in its evocation of nature.

I was born in New York City to a Scots-Irish father and Anglo-Costa Rican mother, which gave me a sort of belligerent Caribbean aspect. I grew up in Albuquerque, attended UNM as an undergrad and received my Masters degree from the University of Arizona. My poetry has appeared most recently in the San Diego Free Press, and, thanks to my old friend Larry Goodell, this journal. My poem "Prayer" appeared in the Santa Fe Poetry Broadside and the anthology Just Outside the Frame. This poem appears in my chap book Your Place or Mine? New Mexico Poems, from Geronimo Press, San Diego, 2007. I am a retired librarian who now works to promote awareness of the ongoing crisis in mental health care. Laurie Macrae, San Diego.

Note: For those of you who remember the lively Silva's Saloon Reading series in Bernalillo, Laurie, who was the Town Librarian, was one of the organizers. Larry Goodell

LEVI ROMERO and SHERWIN BITSUI at 3pm in Placitas today, June 8th, at the Anasazi Fields Winery and it's free.Call 867-3062 for info. I'll see you there! Short open reading after.

Views: 244

Comment by Dee Cohen on June 8, 2014 at 6:31am

Thank you for this poignant poem. So much in ABQ walks the line between hopefulness and hopelessness. You've captured our world well. D

Comment by Margaret Randall on June 8, 2014 at 4:57pm

Beautiful poem. I too remember Roosevelt Park from my youth in the 1950s. It has always been a map of what life in that part of the city has been like. I also remember an incident of police violence there in the mid 1980s... I guess things haven't changed that much in that respect.

Comment by Izquierdo on June 8, 2014 at 9:44pm

I love poems that are easy to understand and these straight forward, well put together long sentences comfort the brain while telling a great story about Roosevelt Park, which I often visited in the late 1950s and saw similar sights, every minute enjoyable, from sports to watching lovers snuggle a little too much for comfortable general public consumption, unless you are a teenage boy, of course, a supreme voyeur and lover of poems and springtime trysts.

Comment by Merimee Moffitt on June 15, 2014 at 7:42am

Beautiful and capturing history and sociology like a bee gathers pollen.  the beautiful park is still gorgeous and full of families enjoying and celebrating. One of Burque's little corners of Eden.  Thank you for memorializing in your lovely poem.  In winter, we used to pull our kids to Roosevelt on big truck inner tubes and sled the little hills--joyous snow days.


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