Not Without You

You should have seen the Hudson River yesterday

It slithered sleepily under the bridges in the morning light, clogged with plastic bags and tears, honking horns and pigeons’ feathers and take-out cartons from that Chinese place downtown, the one your sister loves

The crumpled water echoed our metropolis

A city shimmering as a soap bubble, pristine and new,

With forests of glass and steel that scraped the sky

And taxis, busy as bees, darting to pollinate street corners with people

Billboards bloomed with vibrant colors that ran and smeared, twisting into each other to create reds that scorched my skin, and blues deep enough to drown in

Over the top of that metallic forest loomed the trees of Central Park, thick as buildings, tangles of vines and branches where children could be lost forever and never notice


I looked into the Hudson River yesterday

And I was scared of what I saw there

Is that okay? It’s just

That shining metropolis in the water, bright and beautiful—

That was not our city, not without the perfume of garbage and people and coffee

Not without the grumble of tired subways, or Love Lane, or Pineapple Street

Or that roof that overlooks Union Square, that we trespassed and climbed the fire escape to get to

Not without the park, where muggers and lovers both wander at night

And not without the antique shop you found through that alley on West 16th, the one that was so well hidden we called it Narnia

Not without the street musicians who line the subways with hope and pennies tucked into the linings of their caps

Remember when you tried to get me to contra dance to the music? Come on, you said, I’ll teach you to Gypsy

And you whirled and spun until I joined in


I looked into the Hudson River

And for a moment, I thought I heard music

And I thought I saw you

But it was probably only an echo

Alice Markham-Cantor
Age 16, Grade 11
Writopia Lab
Gold Key

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