Central Park West and 65th street
I Am a Corner of the "Pre-School" Room
in the Ethical Culture School, Central Park West and 65th Street
I am waiting for the children - for you. I am crowded, full of surprises, I'm the secret corner of the big room. It's a little bit dark in here, yes, mysterious, but not with scary things like you may hear out on the street or in elevators, or (sometimes) in your bedroom, or on their radios. Nothing to make you cry. Even if you're scared at first. Come in, you'll see. You can take your shoes off, but you don't have to. Come into my little kitchen, little sitting place, the little costume area way under the balcony, or climb up there, on my steep, slanty stairs. It's my balcony. Be very careful.
At the railing up there, you can look down on all the other children talking, gathering on the rug, reading in the corners, building with the big wood blocks, clump clump. You can listen...
The city is so big you can only see up and down streets and buildings, and you know how you have to hold someone's hand if you cross Central Park West to go into the park. It's so wide, it takes forever to cross, and your heart beats fast. Then, those winding paths are really long. Remember not to step on the cracks, to step right in the middle of each of the hexagons (what a big word! What a big world.) In the park, on that bench near the comfort station, near the zoo, carriages can be stolen by the bad men. No bad men come in here, no heavy boots come in here.
Here, underneath the balcony, a little girl can be very safe - with my stove, my pretty dishes, my fancy necklaces. You can wear one of my velvet capes. You don't have to try on those big pants. You like tidying up, taking care of things, so you'll hang everything back on the wooden pegs.
Come on, try something on, you can wear the beads. You will be pretty. And strong. You can do many things with the dishes, you can turn the stove on and off. Nobody will see you.
Then, you can go up in my balcony again when you're tired. You'll be out of sight there, but not really hiding. It's part of the secret place because they might not look up. And you will be very tall, above everyone.
Later, you will learn that the grown-ups don't see magic, they only see a big, noisy room and a corner where there's a play stove and some other stuff stored away.
The room still exists, and I've been told that the corner with the balcony has survived the years. I haven't dared to go back, it is so vivid and secret in my mind.
Credits: For the 2006 People's Poetry Gathering, City Lore and the Bowery Poetry Club invited New Yorkers to take on the personas of their favorite New York City places.