“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.

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