He touched our lives with gentleness and hope, The hope that Newark would be a better place; He gave a model of inclusiveness, Of knowing black and white and high and low.
The strength he had is what we must employ In treating poverty, disease, mistrust, and hate, The love he had we’ll nurture everywhere To make our living worthy of his gift.
The kindness of a man as big as he (As big of soul as he was big of frame) Is what we must extend to each and all While joining hands to make our forward move.
We loved him as the brother that he was, We’ll miss him from our gatherings about; Our city and our hearts know he was here, And will remember in the years to come.
Timothy Still, a former Golden Gloves boxing champion, turned his commanding physical and personal presence to grassroots organizing in Newark’s Central Ward. He co-founded and led the Hayes Homes Tenants Association, and was president of the United Community Corporation, the city’s official community action agency in the mid-1960s. Upon his sudden death of a heart attack at age 48, the city observed a weeklong period of mourning. In 1970 the Schoolmen’s Club dedicated a plaque to Still’s memory in the Central Ward’s Quitman Street School; the inscription hailed him as “a shining example to light the way to a better Newark.”
Alma Flagg’s tribute is taken from her 1979 collection Lines and Colors.
The lights are out; the rainbow pictures fade; Their magic beauty and their color-flow And rhythmic grace no eye again shall know; ‘Tis ended now, the lovely masquerade, And those who, wondering, looked, and those who played, Back to the busy commonplace they go, To toiling life that moves so dull and slow; And silent darkness cloaks the parkland glade.
The rainbow pictures fade; but still there gleams The rainbow hope to hold us to our dreams; And lowly toil grows beautiful and bright As hearts urge forward to the coming light; And men in lifelong memory will see The vision of the city that shall be.
The 1916 Pageant of Newark was a piece of historical and allegorical theater written by Thomas Wood Stevens and produced, literally, with a cast of thousands. It offered an exuberant vision of Newarkers’ collective future.
This sonnet appeared on the front page of the Newark Evening News of June 3, 1916, the day after the final performance.
When Winter comes, with horrid roar, And all the trees are stark and cold, While glorious Sol doth hide his face, And all the world seems growing old, All hail! our little Thespian church, Where only mirth and music sound; Where no joy-killing bell is heard, And every imp of gloom is drowned.
As outwardly the world grows dark, Within the scene doth brighter shine, And deathless Shakespeare’s regal wit Still glows like immemorial wine. Nor saint nor devil haunt this place, But men that thrill at others’ woe— Mankind with blood within their veins, Who fain would make a heaven below.
A heaven where sense and beauty dwell, And poetry of form and sound— Where all is genial, kind, and bright, And music sheds a glory round. Here may poor Goldsmith oft appear, And Sheridan, and Bulwer too, And all the dazzling sons of fame Who wrote more wisely than they knew.
Long may Bob Acres make us roar With cowardice sublimely quaint, And Tony Lumpkin teach again How love can make a clown a saint. And mistress Coghlan (fairest Rose) Enchant us with her Rosalind— A type of what sweet woman was Before the day when Adam sinned.
Let none to vulgar tricks descend To split the ears of boors and knaves, For any acting so o’erdone Is far from what good breeding craves. Men are but babes of larger growth, And all must end as they began; And since ‘tis so, then let’s be sure Our play is such befits a man.
Park Presbyterian Church occupied West Park Street until 1872, when its building became the 1,063-seat Park Theatre. A magnet for star performers in its day (Oscar Wilde once lectured there), the theater was converted in 1889 for use as the Free Public Library, and from 1901 to 1931 housed the New Jersey Historical Society. The Prudential Tower now occupies the site.
Augustus Watters, who gave yearly public recitations from Shakespeare, dedicated these verses to the manager of the Park Theatre, Leonard Gray. They were printed in the 1882 volume Poems.
Frayed cables bear perilously the antiquated lift, all glass and wrought iron past each apartment floor like those devices for raising and lowering angels of rescue in Medieval plays. Last night the stairwell lamps flickered off and I was borne up the seven floors in darkness, the lift a small lit
cage where I thought of you, of the Catholic souls we envisioned once, catechism class, the saint in her moment of grace transfigured as she’s engulfed in flames. The lift shivered to a halt above the shaft and I was afraid for a moment to open the grille, wanting that suspension again, the requiemed hum
of one more city going on without me—Cockney girls with violet hair swirling among the businessmen and movie ushers of Soho, sullen in their jackets. All of them staving off as long as they can the inevitable passing away, that bland euphemism for death. But I can’t shake this from my mind:
your face with its hollows against hospital linen. Newark’s empty asylum wings opened again this year for the terminal cases. Each day another strung-out welfare mother, the streetcorner romeos we used to think so glamorous, all jacked-up on two-buck shots. It was winter when I last was home
and my mother found you on her endless dietician’s rounds, her heavy ring of keys. It was winter when I saw you, Loretta, who taught me to curse in Italian, who taught me to find the good vein in the blue and yellow hours of our sixteenth year among deep nets of shadows dragged through evening, a surf
of trees by the railway’s sharp cinders. Glittering like teen dream angels in some corny A.M. song, buoyed by whatever would lift us above the smouldering asphalt, the shingled narrow houses, we must have felt beyond all damage. Still what damage carried you all these years beyond the fast season of loveliness
you knew before the sirens started telling your story all over town, before the habit stole the luster from your movie starlet hair. Little sister, the orderlies were afraid to touch you. Tonight, the current kicks the lights back on and there’s the steady moan of the lift’s
descent, the portion of what’s left of this day spread before me—stockings drying on the sill, the cool shoulders of milk bottles—such small domestic salvations. There was no deus ex machina for you, gone now this half year, no blazing seraphim, finally no miraculous escape, though how many times
I watched you rise again and again from the dead: that night at the dealers’ on Orange Street, stripping you down, overdosed and blanched against the green linoleum, ice and saline. I slapped you and slapped you until the faint flower of your breath clouded the mirror. In those years I thought death was a long blue hallway
you carried inside, a curtain lifting at the end in the single window’s terrible soft breeze where there was always a cashier ready to take your last silver into her gloved hands, some dicey, edgy game. Beneath the ward clock’s round dispassionate face there was nothing so barren in the sift from minute
to absolute minute, a slow-motion atmosphere dense as the air of Medieval illuminations with demons and diaphanous beings. I only wished then the cancellation of that hungering that turns us towards the mortal arms of lovers or highways or whatever form of forgetfulness we choose.
Your breath barely troubled the sheets, eyes closed, perhaps already adrift beyond the body, twisting in a tissue of smoke and dust over Jersey’s infernal glory of cocktail lounges and chemical plants, the lonely islands of gas stations lining the turnpike we used to hitch towards the shore, a moment
I want back tonight—you and me on the boardwalk, the casino arcade closed around its pinball machines and distorting mirrors. Just us among sea serpents, those copper horses with mermaid’s tails, porpoise fins, and the reckless murmur of the sea. Watching stars you said you could almost believe the world arranged
by a design that made a kind of sense. That night the constellations were so clear it was easy to imagine some minor character borne up beyond judgement into heaven, rendered purely into light. Loretta, this evening washes over my shoulders, this provisional reprieve.
I’ve been telling myself your story for months and it spreads in the dusk, hushing the streets, and there you are in the curve of a girl’s hand as she lights her cigarette sheltered beneath the doorway’s plaster cornucopia. Listen, how all along the avenues trees are shaken with rumor of this strange good fortune.
This poem is reproduced as it was printed in the Spring 1989 issue of Ploughshares.
Wings of Pegasus upward O’er Mauna Loa’s peak, Above Oahu’s plains unconq’rd Protect the old and weak.
Guardians of the upper regions, Strike the foe below, Silence all the siege guns And cease the bloody flow.
Wings of Pegasus onward Seek out the lofty stratosphere Nearest to the Lord Where our ideals soar clear!
Guardians of the upper regions, Eagles o’er Hawaii’s heights, Permit no enemy legions To blacken out her lights!
Private First Class Louis Schleifer served at Hickam Field on Oahu with the 5th Bombardment Group, 4th Reconnaissance Squadron (H), U.S. Army Air Force. He was one of five Newarkers killed in the December 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
A park close to South Side High School, of which Schleifer was a graduate, was renamed in 1942 in his honor and a fountain placed there, inscribed with this poem. The memorial now stands at Temple Beth Shalom in nearby Livingston, New Jersey.
Philadelphia may boast of her porter and ale, The one like pure amber, the other so pale; She may chaunt the rich virtues of heart-warming beer, And sing of peach brandy, the Irishman’s cheer– Unshackled by custom, I’ll choose for myself The brown mug of cider that stands on the shelf; The neat mug of cider, The dear mug of cider, The brown mug of cider that stands on the shelf.
The praises of Bacchus his vot’ries may sing, To the jolly old drinker their sacrifice bring, With bays they crown the blithe god of the vine, While they bow at his altar, I’ll worship at mine: For dear to this palate, aye, dearer than pelf, Is the brown mug of cider that stands on the shelf; The neat mug of cider, The dear mug of cider, The brown mug of cider that stands on the shelf.
The Yankees may tell of their switchell and rum, And bellows-top too, they may count in the sum; Molasses and water is stale in my eye, And rum, one may swallow, and after be dry– Flip may suit some odd mortals, but not so myself, ‘Tis the brown mug of cider that stands on the shelf; The neat mug of cider, The dear mug of cider, The brown mug of cider that stands on the shelf.
Then here’s to old orchard, the drink of my sires, The liquor that mirth and good feeling inspires; While the farm-house is thrift and the walls are of stone, And the granary is filled, shall this nectar be known; ‘Tis the yeoman’s panacea, who cares not for pelf, While the brown mug of cider is seen on his shelf; The neat mug of cider, The dear mug of cider, The brown mug of cider that stands on the shelf.
Newark’s apple orchards were a prominent feature of the pre-industrial town, sustaining the production of its famed hard cider. The best brew, sometimes touted as “Newark Champagne,” was thought to result from a blend of the Harrison and the Campfield, or Newark Sweeting–two apple varieties first cultivated here.
The New-Jersey Eagle printed the above encomium on June 29, 1821. It was subtitled “A Parody,” and signed simply “NEWARK.”
Syncopation. Innovation. Celebration. Brick city beats . . . Jazz music blaring in my head. Sitting stageside. Mr. Wes, the Terrace Ballroom . . . Places where the spirits of Sarah and other greats lived and rang true. Shoo be doo be doo. Singers & musicians making magic out of tragic pasts. Enough to last more than three lifetimes. Playing sounds sweeter than ripened fruit on a vine. Ivory keys inviting. Hi-hats hissing. Upright basses boasting . . . We are jazz. We are jazz.
Mr. Wes on Hill Street was one of countless nightspots to be found in Newark from the 1920s to the 1960s, when the city seemed to boast “a jazz club on every other corner.” A 2013 mural on Hawthorne Street pays tribute to this rich history.
Sonya Kimble-Ellis teaches art and writing and is an author of books for children and teens. “We Are Jazz” appears here for the first time.
Sunset on the hills; with dark below, The wooded slopes. The evening glow Blinds where the river-flood runs wide, Lifts pink and pearl from the other side; And the woods run down to the splendid stain Of the river-brim to live again.
One lone canoe drifts idly by With the sure stroke sweeping back fitfully, Presaging portents dire and black From the tangled reaches of Hackensack.
The slopes stand bare on the darker side Where the clearing spreads, brave, clean and wide, And the timbers pile in close redoubt Near where the home-lights twinkle out.
The new post held, the new vows sworn In the old, old faith—and the town is born.
How the spirit kindles, how greatly goes Thro’ urgent years, the Passaic knows.
A flame thro’ the whole great countryside. The spirit carries as the news runs wide, Unhurried news of wind and tide— A feathered prow passes the wharf’s long bar Where the crowded masts of the shipping are— Of orders coming from oversea, Of imposts levied wrongfully, Of tribute demanded of loyalty.
Lo, patriot, rebel and mutineer; Muster of sloop and privateer; And, deaf to the urge of amity, To the arts and crafts of diplomacy, It is “Tyranny—tyranny—tyranny!”
How the spirit blazes, how greatly goes Thro’ troubled years, the Passaic knows; Grappling the issue with immortal peers, O little town of one hundred years!
The dying roar of artillery. A nation, torn, in her agony; One nation, smiling in her agony.
The long grey lines have all swung south, Worn, proud, unbroken. From river-mouth, From inlet, from roadstead, the boats go by. One flag flies in the freedman’s sky. Blue lines passing, mute and worn have come Home to the peace of the north hills—home.
The shipping crowds the lower bay. New duties call—the greater play Of Love’s great heart of forgivingness; Wrongs that Right must needs redress; And civic growth and righteousness.
How the spirit carries, how greatly go The earnest years, we and the Passaic know; Scanning the stars, blood of elder seers, O city of two hundred years!
Sheeted gas flaring down the hard-fought field, Gouts of white lead, tuns of bursting steel, Chaos of shells. The thunders sound Fainter thro’ caverns deep underground Where the trenches hold. Time’s conquests fall, Smashed back and back with each interval. It is hell gone mad; nor shift of grace Rallies the hurt cry of helplessness.
Merciful seas cool the hurts that drown; Unarmed non-combatants homeward bound, Liner and transport going down.
And For wanton display of efficiency, For craven insistence of urgency, There is “Butchery!” “Butchery!” “Butchery!”
World-thunders threaten down untrod ways, Banners are flying thro’ anxious days. How the years shall carry the spirit’s spell Down abysmal years, the years will tell.
O city of visions memorial, Back thro’ the years, perennial, Or dark or light— How the common tongue Swung glib the name of Washington, Knew Talleyrand, spoke LaFayette; Cornwallis spits anathema yet!
The nation born, the common mass Knew royalty, saw statesmen pass; Guessed trouble brewed, applauded France, Appraised the heir of circumstance.
Now the nation grown past her infancy, Argued of party, of polity; Or suspicion scotched into bitter hate— Delinquency made desperate— Answered Lincoln and measured Lee Where Gettysburg grappled with destiny.
You, too, have seen in a larger dawn A world-empire wheel up San Juan, Break into foam as the seas spurt red Were it Sampson or Schley or Dewey led. Now world-thunders threaten down untrod ways, Banners are flying thro’ anxious days.
City of visions memorial, Back thro’ the years perennial; You who have heard with your ships at sea, The rattle and roar of artillery; Who have heard in the thunders, north or south, Your heroes named by the cannon’s mouth; Name now your glorious company, And name the glorious company That Peace has linked with liberty.
City of visions! What dreams shall glow, Shall live, the Passaic may not know Where just beyond, the future dips To the nations’ dream-apocalypse, O city of vision, whose spirit steers Thro’ fifty and two hundred years!
Elizabeth Sewell Hill was a Chicago-based educator. While it is probable that “Newark” was written for the poetry competition held in 1916, any impression it made on the judges is not recorded.
Hill included the piece in her 1917 collection Western Waters, and Other Poems.