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'Boston Ode': a poem by Poet Laureate Porsha Olayiwola

Read the latest poem by Porsha Olayiwola, the City of Boston Poet Laureate.

can you name a love without rigor? without sweet ache
and stretch and sunshine and sweat. Boston, parent of
our hallowed america, someone else’s god before the

land was conquered. not the city we are born of, but it
is a charitable home. the same way the city upon a hill
gave birth to a country and we are all now inside a nation

and unbelonging at once. there is not a love i can fathom
with neither push nor pull. with neither grit nor sorrow
nor glory raining out the other end. what is a home, then,

if unhinged and locked. beloved city, gemmed with
bodegas on its corners, each studded with a cat guarding
the front stoop. gracious current, ringing the rush of the

river, the calm of the pond, and the guilt of the ocean
hushing secrets along dorchester’s shores. beantown,
the best to keep the kept. slades on tremont and bintou’s

in roslindale. home is the booth we plop into, the cafes
where the cashier craft meals that fill us. dear city,
southwest corridor thumming from the subway racing

against air. patron saint of travelers, plague of trolleys,
hold us still at lights, unlearn us bustle and hand us
patience. memorandum to slow. remind us who it is

we are and the blood love it took to raise us. city of
building blocks, place of clear water, of culture-
shaping, of planting and planning. tri-hilled city, tip

the cup of tea and bring on the massacre. city of
building up, up, up and people out, out, out. city of
ramming, city of running, of shifting, pacing, fast,

gone. champion of all. parade for everything.
celebrate the house, the keeper of our bones. nest
to our families. who will want if we won’t and what

is a heart if it does not pulse? doesn’t pull itself
toward itself and extract itself away again? what
is a heart if it doesn’t pause then continue as to

remind the body it has chosen to keep going.
the gallant and the trodden, the gentrified and
the migrant. from roxbury to the seaport. harbor,

castle island, cobbled stoned tomb of chest, cobbled-
stoned town, always shouting our melancholy big
on your pavements, always chasing friends away

and further into your arms. sirened city, sunned
bathe, sillied picnic, public garden concerts. you
beautiful summer. you firework and worth it all.

you cold heat to my head, investor in wealth and health.
eldest master, first future of our states, teacher of love
long-standing, of might, fight and force. politics and wind

blow a barbed breeze, cutting kisses across the face. o’
city i love, o’ city i know and walk the lawn of. city i
carry between my cheeks, around my neck. city i found

along my palms, under my nails. city of song blaring,
of loud leaping rhythm familiar and inescapable, calling
out to each of us by heart, singing out to all of us by name.

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  • Poet Laureate program

    The City’s Poet Laureate raises the status of poetry in the everyday consciousness of Bostonians.

    Poet Laureate information

    • Last updated:
  • Poet Laureate program

    The City’s Poet Laureate raises the status of poetry in the everyday consciousness of Bostonians.

    Poet Laureate information

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