These poems were written by Joergen Ostensen when he and his father George visited Jonah House a couple months back. George coordinated the building of the Community House with more than 100 peacemakers from all parts of U.S., and some from Europe, from May 1995 to June 1996. Joergen was baptized by Steve Kelly, SJ, in the Community House on Oct. 10, 1999. Sr. Ardeth is joyfully one of his godmothers.
The Never Ending Storm
By Joergen Ostensen
Thunder in Baltimore,
The storm floats in
Like the cruise ships at the inner harbor.
Rain follows thunder
Even as lightning precedes it.
But the downpour will not end the reign of heat.
Hot nights and hotter days,
Pools full of people packed together
Like the stone-faced sharks in their prison with glass walls.
Other prisons are glass-less;
Few can see in and less care to.
Edifices of crisscrossing steel overflowing with sad stories.
Yet those that enter usually return.
Thin streaks of pale blue descend from hazy heavens;
For fleeting moments the gods could see this strange town of sand.
A black land ruled by blue people.
Crossing streets and battered city blocks whose favorite son was Gray.
But no god gazes on these rows of houses holding hands;
Here the jails are crammed like swimming pools while the churches stand empty.
Thin blades of grass grow out of cracks under crosses;
Shards of bottles broken like the dreams of their drinkers litter the
Where grandma would have strolled on a Sunday in a forgotten time.
The rain has come.
Sheets of tears falling from somewhere,
All is wet
There’s enough of that everywhere else.
The city that can’t clean itself takes a shower.
Waters from the sky clear away the blood from the playground;
Tomorrow the children will play there after work.
After the corner slows down.
Electricity pours down from the heavens,
On the school by the park.
The place no one will pay for at City Hall.
Where the pupils were never told the name Benjamin Franklin
And will never hold his picture in their hands.
The storm will pass on before The Sun has been delivered.
Tomorrow the sun will bake west Baltimore again;
And the heavens will empty of dark clouds…
Long has a darkness clung to these streets unhindered;
Staunchly waiting like the glass in the crevice where Winchester meets the curb.
* * *
Just Balloons on a Bridge
By Joergen Ostensen
It will be a hot night;
They all are in August
On the West Baltimore streets.
Where people die and rats live.
The sun is setting;
Reds and deep purples
Like a Ravens jersey painted over.
Exhaust and tobacco smoke fill the air.
Cars line the curbs in all directions.
Broken down Toyotas from another century;
A beaten up Chevy that remembers every crash like it was yesterday;
And a sleek new Mustang in a deep scarlet
The color of blood.
Lafayette off Bentalou
Over the bridge with no water underneath.
To the left a sign reading FOOD MART.
Maybe once but no anymore;
Only an empty lot with a pile of trash.
Probably a grocery store run by the rats.
On the other side kids play on the playground
Slides long and hot from a day in the Maryland oven.
A game of hoops has started
Teenagers call out insults and challenges.
Somebody gets hot;
The beautiful swishing of nylon that has yet to rip.
A brand new car speeds past;
The music blares,
A rappers raspy voice permeates from the custom speakers.
Everybody sees him but nobody witnesses.
But the bridge like the city is filled with sad stories.
On the white siding there’s a shrine
Not ten feet away from the court where the kid steps back for a J;
He’s money from outside even though his family is broke.
The wind tosses the red balloons;
Catching the eye of the passerby.
The balloons are the same shade as the Mustang;
A tinsel cross sparkles in the sunset.
Its not Christmas.
RIP letters that tell a story.
“We love you.”
Inscription on the white siding
A fading photo touched by days in the heat
Discolored like the slides where the kids always play.
A boy in a photo on a bridge,
Dark skin and darker hair;
Dread locks cut short;
A shadow of a smile;
On a shadow of a man who couldn’t have been twenty.
His name is written in magic marker
The fallen angel who should have gotten a bronze star.
Everybody knows what happened and it wasn’t a car crash.
Once he was a smiling boy
Who slid the slide and shot the three ball
He probably laughed and cried like all the rest.
He probably dreamed of a future
But there is no future on the white paneled bridge with no water underneath.
All that’s left of him now is balloons that the wind;
The plaything of the wind.
“Next point wins.”
A cry from the players on the blacktop.
A drive and a kick and jumper from the wing.
That one didn’t miss but I pray the others do.
The kids run home;
On sidewalks that have been broken for decades.
No one wants to see the streets when the red leaves the sky.
No one wants to see Tavon’s friend in the Mustang.