old postcard depicting what is now lower Manhattan’s Columbus Park

I’m planning a trip to New York — I almost wrote, “home” to New York, though I haven’t lived there in years — where my family and I will be staying way downtown, in the thick of Manhattan’s original streets. It got me thinking about Columbus Park — not far from Wall Street, and a stone’s throw from my first “office” job on Duane Street. Anne Pierson Wiese’s poem, from her first collection, FLOATING CITY, captures the fragrant old park — now angled into Chinatown, but with visible roots back to mid-19th century’s Five Points — with sharp, layered clarity:


…On these summer days the green plane trees’ leaves
linger heavy as a noon mist above
the men playing mah jongg—more Chinese
in the air than English. The city’s composed
of village greens; we rely on the Thai
place on the corner: Tom Kha for a cold,
jasmine tea for fever, squid for love, Duck Yum
for loneliness. Outside, the grove of heat,
narrow streets where people wrestle rash and unseen

Read the full poem at Poetry Foundation.