On Maujer St.

My poem “On Maujer St.” went up at the Flatbush Review this week. It was 18 years in the making! Poems often work that way, gestating inside you silently until – boom! – they find words in a burst of energy like an explosion. “Maujer St.” is an attempt to record, post-facto, the day of a real explosion – the one that shook New York City (and the world) on Sept. 11, 2001. Lots of poets flourishing now were still children then, much as I was a child during the Reagan administration. But I was on the eve of my 27th birthday, and it turned out to be one of those formative events in my life, a Where were you when…? kind of event.

At the time Maujer St. was a no-man’s land on the edge of Bushwick, sparsely populated with rickety old tenements and abandoned factory buildings, the kind of place you’d stop your car to empty out your trash in the street, then drive off. It looked like there should be pushcarts, apple-sellers, horses…it was also the exact block on which – a decade after I moved out – a terrible multiple homicide would take place. So, yeah, I’d say Maujer St. has a grim little history at this point.

Here is the beginning of the poem. I’m trying to recreate a sense of claustrophobia, of paranoia, which was the dominant sensation. Also: the incomprehensibility of what was happening. Nobody had any idea what was actually going on, what might happen next or where it all might lead. In hindsight, I’d say we’re still living in the aftermath of those events.

“On Maujer St.”

On Maujer St. we watched the smoke
swell like a genie from the East 
swallow the city, grope the air,
disturb intelligence. The beast
came menacingly, probingly;
its gaseous, tentacular arms
mushroomed indeterminately
into the blue. Sirens, alarms.

(from Flatbush Review)


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