“Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:” Isaiah 40:4
New Jersey, your comatose cul de sacs will be exalted!
Your monoxide-spewing Turnpike will snake crooked!
Your rubber-tire strewn marshlands, will blossom exalted!
Yes, your toxic waste dumps will rise green, exalted!
Basement apartments in Camden, rented through crooked
Realtors with no repairs will turn penthouse, exalted!
The cots of the warehouse night watchmen: king-size! Exalted!
Your uphill southern logging roads will uncurl downhill straight!
The unkempt Newark ghetto football fields will be mowed straight!
Armpit state of the stinky Northeast, be wash-clothed, be exalted!
Yes, you state-wide chemical blight beyond the fruited plain,
Your hour has finally arrived on its white thoroughbred — plain
Dust shoots from hooves; snakes dart Medusa slithers into plain
Potholes at the sound of such Hi-ho-Silver, William Tell exalted
Overture thunder. Yes, your hour has come, your hero a plain-
Clothes officer of the reckoning, armored in white HASMAT, plain-
Spoken, broom-wielding, a holy janitor is your champion, exalted
As a Bruce Springsteen chorus repeated on the radio, as plain
As a Jersey twang-tuned ballad to his beloved, if dirt-plain,
Jersey girls perming their already over-processed hair crooked,
gluing on the lids of their dull, murky eyes false and crooked
lashes, adding no fire to their desperately lean, pink, plain
Pavonia-Newport Mall-shoplifted, bottle-blonde, über-straight
Girl looks looking for hair-gelled, sneakered, muscled straight
Boys at Hoboken hot spots, where, New Jersey, your straight
Couples couple, the beer-goggles blurring purple all the plain
Failures — flabby guts, buck teeth and adult braces, straight-
Up ugly pug noses on Rutgers grads, and the hair holes straight
Men spray paint over with infommercial-snake-oiled plain
Brown shoe polish. These mean meetings lead to straight
Copulation in parked cars with Jersey plates, some straight,
Double-barreled shotgun weddings, these occasionally exalted
By white picket fence without end, amen, despite all, exalted
Like you are, New Jersey, you smelly floozy, in this straight-
Talking story, despite the facts: most meetings end crookedly
In promises unkept to phone next week, in syrupy, crooked
Flattery followed by an unending, pregnant, crooked
Silence, yet New Jersey, land of Love Canal, I say straight
Will be leveled, and repaved, and retarred all your crooked
Back alleys of factory towns, smoothed all your crooked,
Secret footpaths leading to Jimmy Hoffa’s shallow, straight,
Unmarked grave, and forgiven will be all your crooked
Boss-politicking days with your arthritis-gnarled, crooked
Hands held out hungrily for government graft in plain
Sight. This will not deprive you of dumb luck, plain
Grace unfurled over your rotten, body-odiferous, crooked
Philandering, pandering, slandering ways. Be exalted!
Be the Garden State! Yes, despite yourself, most exalted!
The crooked, frozen reeds over Mafia hits shall be made straight.
The abandoned shale quarries crawling with rats made plain,
And the sewage swamps, oh, the stench made rosy, exalted!
This poem originally appeared in the brave and selfless Volume 4 of The Ampersand Review
ANNE BABSON, a Coney Island poet, was nominated for a Pushcart for work in The Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal and Illya’s Honey. She has won awards from Columbia, Atlanta Review, Grasslands Review, and other reviews. Her work has been published world-wide. Her libretto for Su Lian Tan’s opera, Lotus Lives, is being produced by Meridian Arts Ensemble in 2010. She has four chapbooks, is featured on one hip-hop CD, and anticipates the release of her spoken word CD, Messiah, from the Artists of Faith label later this year. Catch her blog about uppity women in Brooklyn and beyond at www.annebabson.wordpress.com.