each a phoenix

by Margaret Tsuda

From the ashes of
        dead loves
I rise to
        love anew.

In the cold coals of
        dull disappointments
I grow fresh wings to
        soar in hope again.

From still-smoking embers of
        total defeats
I come forth to
        build a new city.

I am the Phoenix—
not a bird from
half-forgotten legend
but
        Everyman who
        loves
        hopes
        builds!

Image: Jared Kofsky via nj.com

Until the night of Wednesday, July 12, 1967, it was hoped and widely believed that the civil disorders afflicting other cities would leave Newark unscathed. What Life magazine would later call “the predictable insurrection” wrought deep wounds in the fabric of the Central Ward, with a loss of lives and livelihoods out of all proportion to Newark’s size. It also impelled a reconsideration of the kind of city Newark was to be.

Artist and poet Margaret Tsuda, a recent arrival in 1967, was one of the many who stayed and joined their futures to the city’s own. Her poem appeared in the Christian Science Monitor of January 20, 1971, and in the collection Cry Love Aloud.

open house

by Margaret Tsuda

Image: Integrity House
Image: Integrity House

The house is
called
        Integrity.

(To Integrity
come
young men/women
free-willed but anxious
off the streets
fleeing
own desire for
speed  pot  junk.)

The bright-faced
youngsters who
welcome us to
their Open House
show us
proudly how
they have
redeemed discards
resurrected
dingy rooms with
bright paint
earnest sweat
determination.

We
admire ingenuity
neatness and order
listen
to a rock combo
sample a
home-baked cake.
My mind
goes back
to an alley by a movie theatre
I used to pass on my
way to work early mornings.
Four junkies
three men and a woman
met there to wait
to wait shivering
        for a fix.
They were gaunt
unbelievably gaunt
sucked dry
like the pale
skins of cockroaches in a
neglected cupboard.

The quietly pleasant
young man who
has been showing us
around
        Integrity
presses my hand
saying,
        “Goodbye.
Thank you for coming.”

My eyes are
suddenly
tight and hot
with tears.
For that instant
my hope for him
burns
burns as fiercely as
ever
his own must have.

For almost half a century Newark’s Integrity House has facilitated recovery from substance abuse and addiction, making its home in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Integrity House was only a few years old when Margaret Tsuda paid a visit and wrote this poem, published in her 1972 collection Cry Love Aloud.

horse on high street

by Margaret Tsuda

Image: Newark Mounted Police via nj.com
Image: Newark Mounted Police via nj.com

On a commonplace
workday weekday
I was startled at the sight
of a horse on High Street
stepping out with Lippizaner grace
into the frenzied stream of
mechanized morning traffic
so that the patrolman
astride him could oversee
the safe passage of
three small schoolchildren.

What a handsome beast is the horse!
How generously he has lent
his strength/his fleetness to man!
Small wonder that the Attic Greeks—
lovers of beauty
tamers of the horse
sailors of the sea—
seeing the tossing of many manes
in the powerful plunge
of Aegean waves over sandbars
gave to their sea-god, Poseidon
the epithet, Hippias
Lord of the Horse.

The next day there was
no horse on High Street.
The friendly blue-garbed school guard
watched for the children.
But I still remember a
workday weekday made
uncommon/classic
for me
just by the sight of a horse.

Longtime resident Margaret Tsuda included this poem in Urban River, published in Newark in 1976.

commitment in a city

by Margaret Tsuda

ESS Newark http://constitutionworld.typepad.com/free_picture_trek/2012/07/george-washington-statue-newark-nj.html
Image: constitutionworld.typepad.com

On the street we two pass.
I do not know you.
I did not see
if you are—
fat/thin,
dark/fair,
young/old.

If we should pass again
within the hour,
I would not know it.
Yet—
I am committed to
love you.

You are part of my city,
my universe, my being.
If you were not here
to pass me by,
a piece would be missing
from my jigsaw-puzzle day.

Therefore—
I am committed to
love you deeply.

Originally published in the Christian Science Monitor of December 9, 1969, this poem appeared in Margaret Tsuda’s Cry love aloud in 1972.

city child/river child

by Margaret Tsuda

Image: Bright Funds
Image: Bright Funds

It is good for a child
to grow up by a river.

There is much talk of
coming from
passing along
going toward
from a river.
Comments put into
sparkling form whose
luster is not forgotten.

It is good for a child
to grow up in a city by a river
where concrete can
be seen to merge into fluid
the static into the ever-flowing.

And a river can give assurance
of the power of beauty
to surmount defilement and
that is important
to a child
growing up in a city.

This poem appeared in the Christian Science Monitor on August 14, 1975, and was included in Tsuda’s collection Urban River, published in Newark in 1976.

newark moon: two poems

Image: Dr. Dick's Report
Image: Richard Wilkins, Jr.

EPIC WAS THE VOYAGE

by Larry Pendleton

Ho! The Sea of Tranquility
Where Man did not hold sway
Until two daring Astronauts
Walked on the moon that day …

Nations gasped and gaped in awe
The impossible had been done
Three valiant Voyagers roared thru space
Beneath the scorching sun …

Their Lunar module touched-down on moon
The Solar Winds moaned low
Silence filled Time’s Great Halls
As they muttered “it is so” …

It was an Epic Voyage
All mankind thrilled to see
Puny Man a giant in deed
From moon to earthbound sea …

We hail our mighty Astronauts
Our voices raised on high
Almighty God consented
And man vanquished the skies …

“Quo Fata Ferunt”

 

MIRE! MIRE! LA LUNA!

by Margaret Tsuda

The moon
full/radiant/fair
unshadowed by earth
hung just beyond
the reach of fingertips.
But
in the concrete dusk
of the city
only at street crossings
could the splendid sphere be seen.

At one corner
a clump of urchins
tumbled out of a doorway.
Rough and a bit ragged,
I thought as
I passed among them.

Then, behind me
rose a cry
loud/shrill/urgent,
“Mire! Mire! La luna!”

How many other
child-throats
in how many other tongues
gave voice that night,
“Look! Look! The moon!”
as planet earth and satellite
turned together
in their soundless spatial
harmony?

Above all speech
all difference of language
the moon serenely
pours forth
luminescent beauty
equally
over all who look
toward light!

Larry Pendleton was an employee of the Newark Post Office District and a journalist for the New Jersey Afro American. His tribute to the crew of Apollo 11 was printed in the September 8, 1969, Congressional Record where he was identified as Newark’s poet laureate.

Margaret Tsuda’s poem was published in The Christian Science Monitor of March 19, 1973, and in her collection Urban River (1976).

seed poems

by Margaret Tsuda

Image: ozTypewriter.blogspot.com
Image: ozTypewriter.blogspot.com

In poets, poems sleep
(all men are poets)
like seeds dreaming in earth
which wait for
the awakening kiss of silver rain
to free them from
their spore bonds.

Some
tight-shelled
resist the rain until
harsh cycles of heat/frost
persuade them.

But whenever that
catalytic moment
comes to compel
they rise humped
heavy with cotyledons.
Slowly
slowly they will
straighten and their
own true leaves appear.

Neither poem nor seed
can be urged before its time
but
each will have a flowering
in the sun!

During her years in Newark Margaret Tsuda published two books of poems; the second, Urban river (1976), contained this piece.

salute to a city tree

by Margaret Tsuda

Image: Akintola Hanif via HYCIDE
Image: Akintola Hanif via HYCIDE

Your roots push and
hump under the cement
that men have
lain upon you as if
you were a
prisoner to be
denied
                even water.

The exhaust gas of
many motors has
stripped and blackened
a half of your branches.

The bright tender
green of your buds
and leaves
is grayed by the
unremitting
smokeshade of
the city.

But passersby
can see that
you believe
“I am that which lives.
I will grow.”

For this
we humbly
                salute you!

In an Arbor Day booklet prepared for Newark school students in 1916, Shade Tree Commission secretary Carl Bannwart wrote: “The more you come to know of trees, the more you’ll come to love them. And whatsoever you truly love, you take care of without urging.”

The Christian Science Monitor of November 14, 1970, published this poem by longtime resident Margaret Tsuda. It appeared in her collection Cry love aloud in 1972.

old jail on new street

by Margaret Tsuda

DSC00100.JPG

The old jail on New Street
has what looks
ironically like a
sedate, white painted
front door.
Over it a funny
electric clock with a
gaudy neon rim
keeps time.
Two wide and handsome
magnolia trees frame the walk
on either side.

But
when I drive by from work
sometimes the van is
in the yard and the
young men
the handcuffed young men
climb awkwardly down.

They can’t see the clock
from the side yard and
they don’t look at
the trees.

What do they see?

What would I see
if I climbed out of
a prison van
hunched and handcuffed?

Defeat
despair and a
no-future world–
apprehension filling
my belly like wet cement.

Muggers
addicts
car thieves and
drunks, yes.
But, men, too!

O, God!
There is more to
being a man
than this!

There’s joy to being a man!
There’s peace to being a man!
There’s confidence in
achievement
security in oneself and
loving and sharing.

But, who will tell them?
O, God! who
can
tell them?

Every day
another
van-load climbs down
hunched and
handcuffed beside
wide magnolia trees.

There must be
someone
to tell them!
Is it
you
or me?

Parts of the old Essex County Jail on New Street (including the administration building, pictured above) still stand, in a ruinous condition, one hundred eighty years after it was built. 

Margaret Tsuda’s “Old Jail on New Street” first appeared in the Christian Science Monitor of March 29, 1971, and was republished in her collection Cry love aloud (1972).