by Colleen Rothman

the starlings flee from the squeal of the train in this sliver between river and rail
GATX / MULX / ECUX / UTLX pause long enough to savor the skyline view,
beyond the remains of a hopscotch that stopped at 79, past the fields of browning
clover, the cushioned paths made of recycled tires, the benches labeled Desire
& Independence & Piety designed to be uncomfortable for sleeping, past the cashless
sunscreen kiosk—Currently Unable to Accept a Card—and mulberries flourishing
on the fence marked DANGER, past shadows skating through the skeletal
bandshell, past the pallet beached in the batture of this waterfront
real estate made finally accessible, an artery renewed
through a neighborhood with a popsicle doorbell

the park’s gardens boast an abundance of transplants and natives, familiar to me
from my yard—snow azalea, fuzzy budding magnolia, weeping lantana,
perfumed olive and jasmine—a privilege to be able to name them,
to have first stroked their leaves on my grandmother’s porch nearby,
to have exhumed another home’s patio while building our beds

but the mural above the condos reassures me I am BEAUTIFUL
or maybe it means this poem, not the first I’ve begun here, in this space for art
about joggers whose portable speakers brag that they’re walking on sunshine,
tourists riding bikes improperly sized, eye-contact avoiders who don’t know
to say g’morning, & me, all these idiots who’ve claimed this city as our home
in this dead wharf revitalized for us, this place I wish I didn’t love
where I’m just trying to get my steps in

Colleen Rothman is a writer from south Louisiana who lives in New Orleans. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Literary Hub, Ploughshares, The Kenyon Review Online, and elsewhere. She is working on a collection of short stories set in Louisiana. Learn more at


Photography by: Aaron Burden