Surviving February

February 28, 2012 |  by  |  Found  |  , ,

Rindelaub Row half demolished for 10 Rittenhouse, 2006 | Photo: Bradley Maule, PhillySkyline.com

Editor’s Note: The shortest month, February is also the cruelest, and often the hardest to endure. Even this one, with all the sunny days and daffodils blooming (and magnolias, crocus, cherry trees…), perhaps especially this one, with all the sunny days and daffodils blooming, spring taunting. In February, I turn to the poet Stephen Berg, founder of the American Poetry Review. Wry and miserable, alert and choking, Berg often feeds on the decay and visceral being of Philadelphia. Here’s a passage from a prose poem (Berg a master of the form), “Burning,” from the 1998 book Shaving, published by Four Way Books. Here is the old 18th Street in Center City, the 18th Street of the 1980s and 1990s; all but Sue’s is gone.

This is all there is, it is burning, birth death like a palace of leaves, burning, saw dogshit clog my cleated sole scraped it off on a curb then on grass by a tree, then used a twig, the hundred different quartz watches, buttons, displays, black and silver, in the electronics shop across from Pour Vous, Sue’s Fruits and Vegetables with its packed stalls juice machine customers, Rindelaub’s restaurant now nothing but a cheap bakery, even the faeces, even Christ, even the cracked fucked-up pavement under my feet, the gift of its drab heart (pray? should I pray?) burning–these must have told me what I had always known in my prideful terrors, but I can’t say, only God who needs no God can, or insects communicating their next move, or the pulse of a leaf–every building, shopper, car and garbage can erupting with the praise and grace of existence, a kind of delirious grief in gratitude for the possibility of existence, who yearning for who yearning for who, it was weird–instantly I resisted, windowshopped, studied books skirts shoes, watched faces, did my interminable shit-scared cretin philosophy, calculated the feel of bills in my pocket if I had enough for lunch, any appointments?–but it was happening: picture yourself caused by light witnessed by light stated by the throat of light redeemed by light.


View Larger Map

About the author

Nathaniel Popkin is co-founder of the Hidden City Daily and author of three books of non-fiction, including Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City (with Peter Woodall and Joseph E.B. Elliott) and two novels, Everything is Borrowed and Lion and Leopard. He is co-editor of Who Will Speak for America, an anthology forthcoming in June 2018, and the senior writer of the film documentary "Philadelphia: The Great Experiment."



Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
Italian-American Heritage & Industrial Landmarks Go Under Review For Historic Designation Recommendation

Italian-American Heritage & Industrial Landmarks Go Under Review For Historic Designation Recommendation

June 17, 2019  |  News

Starr Herr-Cardillo has this roundup of local register nominations on the agenda at the June meeting of the Philadelphia Historical Commission's Designation Committee > more

Homeowners Pay The Price When New Construction Damages Neighboring Rows

Homeowners Pay The Price When New Construction Damages Neighboring Rows

June 14, 2019  |  News

Owners of row houses are left with little recourse when demolition and new construction causes structural damage to their homes. Starr Herr-Cardillo takes a look at a growing citywide problem > more

The Origins Of The Eagles On The Market Street Bridge

The Origins Of The Eagles On The Market Street Bridge

June 13, 2019  |  Vantage

Ed Duffy rides the rails from Manhattan to Philadelphia to give us the backstory on the granite eagle sculptures that stand guard over the Schuylkill River > more

<em>Tonight Is Forever</em> Honors Stonewall Riots & Philly LGBT Activism History

Tonight Is Forever Honors Stonewall Riots & Philly LGBT Activism History

June 11, 2019  |  News

A new art installation at William Way LGBT Community Center connects local and national moments in gay liberation history. Ali Roseberry-Polier takes a look > more

New Exhibit Invites Visitors Inside The Life Of Row Houses

New Exhibit Invites Visitors Inside The Life Of Row Houses

June 6, 2019  |  News

"Rowhouse Workshop," an exhibition devoted to the culture of Philly’s most iconic residential form, opens on Friday, June 7 at Cherry Street Pier. Michael Bixler has the details > more

Introducing The

Introducing The “Mayor of Girard Avenue,” Larry Kane

June 4, 2019  |  Vantage

In Francisville, a sharp spike in real estate development has triggered displacement and a shift in demographics. But Larry Kane, a longtime resident and fixture of the neighborhood, isn't going anywhere. Richelle Kota introduces us to one of North Philly's most beloved residents > more