Jane Jacobs (1916-2006)



A waking town. The ballet of the streets.
A window, and her glasses thick
as Hudson River ice. She watched.

She noted Mr Halpert. His particular flick
to unhook the wooden laundry cart, the way
the sheets and blankets billowed in its wake.

She saw the barber step out, swapping hearsay
as he placed his folding chair out in the sun.
Joe’s son-in-law stacked crates and trays

at the Italian deli. Mr Goldstein’s coiled wire shone
outside his hardware store. Like a hymn
each morning ritual said we’re here, we’re open.

Greenwich Village breathed out, stretched its limbs.
The toddler on the step drank New York slang,
drew neighbours’ smiles with a toy mandolin.

She saw dancing in it all: the yells, the bang
of hurried doors, a stroll across the grass.
Everywhere she watched, the city rang.

Bourbon in hand, perched at the White Horse,
ash dropping from a cigarette, she’d check
the city’s temperature in a single glass.

One watching woman, with thick specs.
A mayor, a plan, big bucks. Jane understood
and stood. She stopped expressways in their tracks.


Jane Jacobs is remembered as one of the seminal thinkers in 20th century urban planning. Picture from community.is

This poem has also been published in Clear Poetry.


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