In the beginning was this surface. A wall. A beginning.
Tonight it coaxed music from a Harlem cloudbank. It freestyled
A smoke from a stranger’s coat. It stole thinned gin.
It was at the edge of its beginnings but outside
Looking in. The lapse-blue facade of Harlem Hospital is weatherstill
Like a starlit lake in the midst of Lenox Avenue.
Tonight I touched the tattooed skin of the building I was born in
And because tonight is curing the beginning let me through.
And everywhere was blurring halogen. Love the place that welcomed you.
‘Tonight’ is excerpted from The Ground.
Chosen for FSG Poetry Month by Sebastian Sarti.
Rowan Ricardo Phillips is the author of When Blackness Rhymes with Blackness and has also translated the poetry and prose of many Catalan-language writers. He received the 2013 PEN/Joyce Osterweil Award for Poetry for The Ground. He lives in New York City and Barcelona.