Tonight it coaxed music from a Harlem cloudbank. It freestyled
a smoke from a stranger's coat; stole thinned gin.
It was on the surfaces of its beginnings, but outside
looking in. The lapse-blue facade of Harlem Hospital is weatherstill
like a starlit lake in the middle of Lenox Avenue.
I touched the tattoed surfaces of my birthplace tonight—
and because tonight is curing, the beginning let me through;
and everywhere was blurring halogen. Love the place that welcomed you.
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This poem originally ran in the October 9, 2006, issue of the magazine.
Rowan Ricardo Phillips is the author of The Ground (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012). His second book, Heaven, will be published by FSG in 2015. He is the recipient of the 2013 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award and a 2013 Whiting Writers’ Award.