lullaby of avon ave.

by Amiri Baraka

Image: Anthony Alvarez via

I used to walk past Sassy’s crib
a couple times a week, when young

And each time say, “That’s
Where Sarah Vaughn lives.”

That was when Symphony Sid
used to call her, “The Divine One,”
Late nights, from hip Bird Land

Oh man, what a feeling that was
Divine & so hip & so very

The house is gone now
Symphony Sid too

As for the town, now
Sassy told us
just before she split

I’m gone, now
Send in


In 1949 Sarah Vaughan with her manager and then-husband George Treadwell bought a three-story house at 21 Avon Avenue. Her parents, Asbury and Ada Vaughan, moved from her childhood home on Brunswick Street into the two lower floors, while she and Treadwell occupied the top floor. By then, however, touring and recording kept the singer away from Newark for extended periods.

“Lullaby of Avon Ave.” appeared in the 1996 collection Funk Lore and the Summer 1996 issue of Journal of New Jersey Poets.


vernal equinox

by Hazel Crawley

Image: The Cultural Landscape Foundation

I do not think this love will last till Spring,
It was in wombs and tombs and cellars carved
And trained, like Ivy, on dank walls to cling,
Lacing two souls that had been too long starved.
Excluding air and sun and wind and rain,
Bent on destroying someone’s muttered curse,
We tightly plaited dammed-up dreams with pain
And now the ebb-tide wills us wounds to nurse.
The year’s first crocus will be our death knell;
The song of the first robin will incite
The thawing, waxing, sunlight to repel
A love that cannot turn away from night.

Poet and playwright Hazel Crawley was born in Newark and served in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II. These lines are from her 1975 collection Erratica.

in the newark library

by Louis Ginsberg
Image: Newark Public Library

Tread softly in these magic halls,–
        This Palace of Romance;
For mighty monarchs of the mind
        Gaze at your every glance.

Prophet and poet, priest and sage
        Are living here anew;
From alcove and from crowded stack
        They look again at you.

And all these voices of the past
        Are murmuring again
Their garnered wisdom of the world
        Into the ears of men.

Here Keats is watching eagerly
        Wherever Beauty gleams;
Shakspere is gazing in your heart;
        And Shelley, in your dreams.

So enter very softly here
        This Palace of Romance;
For all the monarchs of the mind
        Peer at your step and glance!

John Cotton Dana called the public library “the most democratic, universal institution ever devised,” and Newark’s library has fostered the work of countless women and men of letters, including native son Louis Ginsberg. This tribute was featured in The Attic of the Past and Other Lyrics.

the horseman washington

by Joseph Fulford Folsom

Image: Einar Einarsson Kvaran CC BY-SA 3.0, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Image: Einar Einarsson Kvaran via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0

Today, Rhind’s masterpiece unveil’d, we feel
        A sense of olden time. Light horsemen ride
        On Jersey roads, and sleepless foemen hide
In ambush. Everywhere the flash of steel.

The age of romance backward turns again,
        The din of modern traffic dies away;
        Once more we tribute to a hero pay,
And cease awhile our wonted quest of gain.

Yon horseman in heroic bronze, who stands
        So nobly pois’d beside his pawing steed,
        Is Washington, who, in his country’s need,
Rode many weary leagues through many lands.

‘Twas chill November when, in brave retreat,
        He pass’d this ancient common long ago;
        November brings him back again, but lo,
A victor, ever rais’d above defeat!

Thus stood he by his charger when at last
        He paus’d his troops to wish a fond farewell:
        Then, homeward mounting, rode away to dwell
In peace, with all alarms of battle past.

Thus may he stand forever in our street,
        Ready to mount and ride in our defence;
        Or win us back with silent eloquence
To nobler tasks, and daily lives more sweet.

This poem’s fourth and fifth stanzas recall both the desperate early months of the American rebellion and its successful conclusion: the retreat of George Washington’s army across New Jersey with a four-day encampment in Newark in November 1776, and Washington’s farewell address to his troops in November 1783, upon resigning his command.

Clergyman and historian Joseph Fulford Folsom read these lines on November 2, 1912, at the unveiling of J. Massey Rhind’s bronze statue of a dismounted General Washington, which stands at the south end of Washington Park.

silence in the sky

by William Paterson

Image: Lou Shornick via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Image: Lou Shornick via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0

Oft as I try to wander out, among the stars on high,
I wonder more and more why reigns such silence in the sky.

The earth is moving at a pace, that would if it were free,
Within one little moment’s space, reveal Eternity,

And orbs on orbs are rolling far, beyond this mortal ken,
Whose rays of light have never reached the eyes of mortal men.

Yet not a sound in all their course, is heard of voice or air,
While silence guards the ceaseless track of nature everywhere.

If worlds on worlds their voices joined, to raise one chorus high,
It could not reach the utmost verge of silence in the sky.

But man is vain enough to think, his homeopathic skill
Can show the causes that ordain, the work of sovereign will:

Can measure suns and stars and skies, by finite rod and rule,
As if he could create anew; presumptuous mortal fool,

Be still, for God the Lord is God, and knows the reason why,
When worlds are rolling on thro’ space, there’s silence in the sky.

Albert Einstein (shown arriving at Newark Airport in 1939) settled in New Jersey thanks to the munificence of Newark entrepreneur Louis Bamberger: the Institute for Advanced Study, where Einstein worked until the end of his life, owed its existence to Bamberger’s department store fortune. Einstein was welcomed publicly to Newark for the first time on March 25, 1934, when he attended a concert at the Armory and a dinner at the Mosque Theater; both events raised funds for German scientists and others like Einstein fleeing Nazi persecution.

William Paterson, a grandson and namesake of New Jersey’s second governor, practiced law in Newark. “Silence in the Sky” comes from the 1882 volume Poems of Twin Graduates of the College of New Jersey, by William and his twin brother Stephen Van Rensselaer Paterson.


by Leonard Harmon Robbins

Image: National Archives via
Image: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library via

There are no friends, we often say,
        Like those dear friends we knew of yore.
Thus in our hearts we re-survey
        The path we tread no more.

And so, before the journey ends,
        We’ll take a backward look and vow
There were no friends like these good friends
        That walk beside us now.

Newspaperman Robbins made no literary claims for his poetry, which he assembled in a book called Jersey Jingles, published in Newark in 1907.

to the dying year

by Elizabeth Clementine Kinney

Image: Newark Story
Image: Newark Story

Old stricken Year! and must thou die?
Methinks I hear thy waning sigh
        Borne on the wintry blast:
My lamp burns dim, and, dim with tears,
My eyes see shadows, where appears
Thy spectre, moving toward the years
        That are forever past.

Hark! through the darkness, deep and slow,
The tongue of midnight soundeth now
        Thy knell, departing Year!
Mysteriously the numbers roll,
And echo answers from the soul,
To every melancholy toll
        That vibrates on the ear.

Hoary and lone, in childless gloom
Old Year, thou goest to the tomb
        Where all thy offspring lie:
Fair, budding Spring was first to fade,
Then Summer’s blossoms all decayed,
While lingering Autumn only staid
        Till ripened age–to die!

But I will mourn for thee, old Year!
And lay an offering on thy bier
        In flowers of poesy;
For many a gift hast thou bestowed
Of love, that fondly, brightly glowed,
Until my swelling heart o’erflowed
        With thankful ecstasy.

And if thou ever hast been stern,
‘T was only that the soul might learn
        What discipline imparts.
Thou, like a grandsire old and gray
Hast seemed to me in thy decay,
And now I see thee borne away
        As when a friend departs.

But let a blessing on me fall,
Departing Year, e’en from the pall
        That darkly covers thee;
And lest with sad remorse I grieve,
This heart would one more boon receive,–
Approving Memory to me leave
        As thy last legacy.

Printed in Elizabeth C. Kinney’s 1867 volume Poems, these verses exist in a New York Public Library manuscript where they are dated “Newark, December, 1848.”