Iris Litt

Gentrification Song

Now I praise all leaning picket fences
with at least one spoke missing
all trailers zoned to the fringes of town
all rutted dirtroads all farmhouses morphed to
rooming houses with signs plastered
in the entranceway, all shabby RV’s
that someone is obviously living in
and the woodstove the chamberpot the nine-foot hand-dug well

and all my memories of rural life

only the memories aren’t shabby
but bright with autumn reds
radiant with yellows and sunset pinks.

Oh I know I’m glorifying that time:
We got ready for bed at the local coffeeshop
where the water was running and warm
(we said elegantly, which restaurant shall we
get ready for bed in tonight?)

and we lugged water bottles in the car
thinking of all the people who lugged water without cars.
We tried putting the water bottles on our heads like in Africa
and collapsed laughing,
then we put them on yokes across our shoulders
and got bursitis.

Now we have sleek cars and central heating
and hot baths in warm rooms

but I’m glad the mountain looks the same
though more pockmarked with houses
and the crows are still raucous.


The Way Machines Die

Machines die instantaneously
with no apology.
They may moan or shriek a bit
squeak or squeal or emit a little
death rattle

but they do not accuse you
nor make excuses for you.
If you think it happened because
you worked them too hard
were too busy to oil them
were rough with them
or simply didn’t love them enough
don’t worry because

machines die the way we should,
simply and without regret.
We know their estimated life span
(they come with manuals)
but every time, it’s still too soon.
It is always we, the survivors,
who aren’t ready yet.


Iris Litt’s new book of poetry from Finishing Line Press is Snowbird, inspired by her Downsouth winter home, Anna Maria Island in the Gulf of Mexico, off Florida’s west coast. She has two previous poetry collections, What I Wanted to Say and Word Love. She has had many poems, short stories, essays and articles in literary magazines. She led Woodstock Writers’ Workshops for twenty years and taught creative writing as an adjunct at SUNY/Ulster, Bard College, New York Public Library, Writers in the Mountains and other venues in the Hudson Valley and New York City. Woodstock is her Upnorth home.