Coming to Union Square one warm April day

The first warm dErica, oil pastels (thinner), 24 March 2019, drawing by William Eaton - 1ay of spring

The snow and the salt washed away

We stand in the square in our shorts and thin blouses

Winter has never been

We are not winter people.

 

And the day after the war

The crosses and memorials left for poems yet to come

We swing our arms and breathe the fresh air

We are a peace-loving people

We know nothing of fighting.

 

Memories we keep in a jar on the mantle

Where they will not be disturbed.

 

— Poem and drawing by William Eaton

 

∩ I worked on this poem in a café where, well within earshot, an Israeli woman was, with evident pleasure, talking and talking into a cellphone. The liveliness (and, likely too, how this talk was invading my mental space) was so alive it caused me to remember how, for 1,500 years, until the nineteenth century, Hebrew had been a dead language. An assumption of this short poem would be that bits of this history were still there, in the young woman’s voice, for people like me to overhear.

Union Square in New York dates back to the early nineteenth century and apparently got its name, not from the Civil War, but because at this location were united two principal Manhattan thoroughfares: Broadway and the former Bowery Road, now Fourth Avenue. That said, in April 1861, soon after the fall of Fort Sumter, Union Square was the site of a pro-Union rally of a quarter of a million people—at that time perhaps the largest public gathering in the history of North America.

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