Monday, November 26, 2012
Jennifer Fitzgerald, a third semester student in Lesley’s MFA in Creative Writing, was in the midst of doing relief work for her neighbors on Staten Island and working on three poems she planned to share for a benefit event. PBS producers meanwhile were asking known poets to connect them to writers on Staten Island - Lesley faculty member Cate Marvin directed them towards Fitzgerald, a fifth generation Staten Island resident.
They interviewed Fitzgerald while she dropped donations through Staten Island Relief, and included her poetry reading on air, as well as two others online.
“The poems were born out of the absence of a clear, honest, and concise voice from Staten Island,” Fitzgerald said. “My family has been on this island for nearly 200 years. It remains blue-collar, working class, and isolated by geography and class. I needed to give our voice space to be heard; stop allowing the rest of the country to draw its own conclusions. A critical lens is focused on us now, and I cannot let the narrative of this island start here.”
Fitzgerald will complete her MFA at Lesley in 2013 and oversees "The Count," a project for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts that tracks the rates of publication between women and men in the literary world. Her work has appeared in the online journal Underwater New York.
See Fitzgerald's segment on PBS NewsHour HERE and enjoy the full text of her poem below.
I Cannot Show You the Streets Under the Rubble
by Jennifer Fitzgerald
The sun teased through the clouds; I watched it landon the debris, illuminating soaked sheetrock, support beams, a child’s stuffed panda. You can’t discern what came from the ocean, what the ocean tore out. Say it, Storm Surge,
alliteration masks the weight of 20 foot waves pulling themselves down on top of you. Dear reader, I cannot bring you to the quaint towns dotting the shore line, standing their ground against development. Instead, I will show you
what it means to stand in the rubble of your life and wait.Wait for FEMA, wait for City, wait for anyone to unblink their eyes and glance your way. Maybe they could see us, not mistake our drowning for greeting. Until then, street-side
tables proffer wares, manned by residents of devastation. A familiar face to assure, it’s okay to take what you need. I cannot show you the piers we fished from and pathswe used to navigate the coast. I can show you the bare-
foot woman to whom I offered shoes, she stared stoically ahead, bundled in a fraying coat, no, give them to someone who needs them. Could you tell a proud soul that this time around, she’s the one…the homeless woman
with a mortgage? How many lives had she lived since the full moon dragged her tide over land? The barefoot woman asked me if they had found all the bodies yet, all the missing, as though we were working toward a number.
She heard our death toll click over as a clock, adding two at a time. Digits are easier to swallow than images of bodies drowned in their own homes, shoved into the back yard by waves. We seek erasure, not closure, a time when memory will be kind.Until then, we clear a space for ourselves, line it with diapers, bottles of water, garbage bags to be filled and emptied. With each bag they takeaway, we decide what it means to salvage, what parts of ourselveswe can save, and what pieces will forever belong to the past.
Additional poems, read by the author, below.
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