“The Poe Cottage, 1992” by Katherine Barrett Swett

Katherine Barrett Swett


The country has abandoned it,
but not the wild.
Crackheads sit

on ruined benches in the park,
crows call from plane
trees, pitbulls bark

at children playing in the glass,
the dirtied dream
of bureaucrats

who hoped once to commemorate
local genius,
not recreate

the House of Usher, death, unrest,
Our guide confessed,

“I sleep in the house when I can.
I have a room
in Manhattan,

but it’s quiet here and near Fordham
where I’m in school.
At four a.m.

I even play my violin.
No one complains.”
We followed him,

stooping as we came inside
the dark, low walls
where his child bride

lay in a room three paces wide,
only a coat and cat
for warmth, and died.

from Rattle #48, Summer 2015
Tribute to New Yorkers


Katherine Barrett Swett: “I have lived in New York City for my entire life. I was born in the same hospital where my children were born and teach at the same school where I was a student. These facts make me that rare creature, a provincial New Yorker. I like to write about the intimate aspects of New York life, not about ambition or skyscrapers, but about caged animals, anonymous ailanthus trees, obscure museums. To someone like me, New York can seem as small, as intimate and as unexpected as a brief poem. How do you make sense of chaos? You divide it into lines, what the city fathers called a grid plan.”

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