This poem describes my first apartment on Union Square. (Maybe a little melodramatic?) It was originally published in something called The Literary Gazette, long before it went online.




I always had to live near a vacant lot
or ruined building. Couldn’t stand
that finished feeling.
Rent? A prayer I prayed each month.
God helped me.

WomaninWinter2Now I mourn the passing of that crippled life.
My place no longer looks into
a condemned store, a whole block
of blackened planks and broken windows,
walls blurring into street.

I step on a smooth piece of sidewalk
and breathe clean musical air.
Bright flowers and tropical fruit
for sale all night long, where a man
in a woman’s flared coat used to sell
secrets to swallow.

The beauty of it makes my heart ache.
The ease of it hurts the girl in me.
I needed things to be difficult.
I needed to stagger against the wind
with broken bags of rice and soup.

I needed to stand at my window smoking
watching the hookers smoking
and howling about Jack,
needed to glance across that street
and catch the eye of a real squatter.

Marilyn is a writer who now lives north of the city. Her nonfiction book, Lives in Ruins: Archaeologists and the Seductive Lure of Human Rubble, was published by HarperCollins in November 2014. You can read more about her at


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