“Ghazal for Kensington” by Sally O’Brien

Sally O’Brien


From Puerto Rico to Boston, all roads lead to Kensington;
the fiends find they can meet all their needs in Kensington.

They found the fourth horseman unresponsive down on Emerald St;
he’s been wandering barefoot since he lost his pale steed in Kensington.

Overhead the trestle looms like the skeleton of a snake,
the bones of the rough beast that feeds on Kensington.

In the Philly.com comments section it’s been the same old story
since Benjamin Rush said, in 1793, “Purge and bleed all Kensington!”

Boxy luxury condos popping up like toadstools on the eastern fringes.
Does the tax abatement also extend to your deeds in Kensington?

Don’t tell the transplants: their organic baby kale is still less nutritious
than the wild lambs-quarters, purslane, and chickweed of Kensington.

Next year we’ll be overrun with a new crop of sweet unruly tomatoes
if, as they say, everything is truly going to seed in Kensington.

Come by O’Brien’s class, watch the kids spin ghazals in the lunchroom.
Don’t let that Times story be the only thing you read from Kensington.

from Poets Respond
October 16, 2018


Sally O’Brien: “Last week, a devastating story went live on the New York Times website; the headline referred to the neighborhood where I teach as ‘the Walmart of heroin.‘ There’s been a lot of opioid-related news coming out of Kensington over the past year as the crisis has intensified and become a subject of national interest. I wish this neighborhood were not so constantly portrayed as some kind of dystopia; my students are filled with so much hope and joy and their voices never make it into articles like these. When I wrote this piece, I was thinking also of another story I read recently, where researchers in California discovered that edible wild greens, foraged in empty lots in Oakland, were more nutritious than anything available at the surrounding grocery stores, even kale.” (web)

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