The Sunday Poem: Margaret Randall... True Grit of Old 66

This is my favorite kind of post:  an Albuquerque poem written by a great Albuquerque poet.  Take a walk with Margaret Randall through the present and into the past.  You just might meet yourself coming the other way.


A feminist poet, writer, photographer, and social activist, Margaret Randall has published more than 80 books.  She lives in Nob Hill.

True Grit of Old 66

In the steamy vortex between First and Sixth
a high-rise cluster of concrete
shrouds itself in colored light
to con the competition,
white stucco molding its undoing.
The Sunshine and El Rey
have parted company
from first-run glitter,
Skip Maisel’s is just a store now
and only the Kimo
retains its whisper of grandeur.
Alvarado’s ghostlike features push
through a bus and train depot’s
faux facade
hoping to impress
when Rail Runner’s red and yellow
bathes the station in commuter promise.
Is it the true grit of old 66
we need back
or a nod to today’s reality
in a city where different
is no longer confined
to the pages of a guidebook
and Indians from India
buy Indian tacos
at the Pueblo Cultural Center
along with those
who never even came
from somewhere else.
New neon and pedestrian walkways
make their stab at gentrification,
trying year after year
to pull life back
from All American malls.
Shabby storefronts
don new masks.
But each Saturday morning in May
after sandstorms have settled
and heat climbs its trickster scale,
a faint breeze
moves down Central
where the ghost of a young girl
—every desire
yet to be granted or withheld—
walks head thrust forward,
eyes suspended
between a bleat of tears
and words sounding thin
on aging wind:
Wait, wait, wait,
here I come!


--Margaret Randall



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Views: 65

Comment by Barelas Babe on July 3, 2011 at 9:06am
This poem sent a run of goosebumps down my arms - you've captured the downtown tension between old and new so well! As always, thanks for sharing your words...
Comment by Dee Cohen on July 4, 2011 at 6:14am

Yes, Margaret, thanks for writing this poem. There is always the conflict between old and new, lost and found. I love how you end on the child running to catch up: like all of us. Happy 4th! Dee


Comment by Ben Moffett on July 5, 2011 at 11:13am

I'll have to parrot BB and Dee on this. Remarkable images. I arrived in Albuquerque at age 12 to catch the glitter of downtown, the Isleta bus ride from Armijo to go to the movies. My first movie was at the State, across from the Sunshine. For a dime, you could go the Coronado on first street to watch western movies with other kids, but you couldn't hear a word for the buzz of conversation. I saw Spanish language movies at the El Rey with my friend, Pete Benavidez. I didn't know Spanish too well, but I remember watching Cantinflas, and I remember a movie called "Viente Horas Antes de Morir," which I understood perfectly. I saw the first "buy your tickets in advance" movie at the Sunshine...I believe it was "The Sound of Music." (1965) I was grown then.For years, "The Ten Commandments" (1956, junior at AHS) was my favorite movie. Very powerful. I think it premiered at the Kimo. Thanks for the reminders.


Comment by Richard V on July 5, 2011 at 12:46pm
ah, another gem from albuquerque's poet-laureate (in my opinion.) i hear stories about what albuquerque used to be like 20, 30, 40 years ago. but none ever came close to describing it like this. bless margaret randall and her poetry.
Comment by Margaret Randall on July 6, 2011 at 10:57am
Thanks to all who have commented. The ongoing conversation among poets is important, and always gratifying to the poet. I thank Jon for keeping that going. I write from Boulder, where I am teaching this week at Naropa's Summer Writing Program. Lots of good people, as always. Lots of inspiration. Still, it's always good to tune in here and reconnect with home ground.


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