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Naomi Replansky, “The Oasis”

Naomi Replansky, “The Oasis”

Author: Poetry Editor

July 18, 2012

This week, three poems from Naomi Replansky’s Collected Poems (Godine/Black Sparrow Books).


I thought I held a fruit cupped in my hand.
Its sweetness burst
And loosed its juice. After long traveling,
After so long a thirst,
_____I asked myself: Is this a drought-born dream?
_____It was no dream.

I thought I slipped into a hidden room
Out of harsh light.
In cushioned dark, among rich furnishings,
There I restored my sight.
_____Such luxury could never be for me!
_____It was for me.

I thought I touched a mind that fitted mine
As bodies fit,
Angle to curve; and my mind throbbed to feel
The pulsing of that wit.
_____This comes too late, I said. It can’t be true!
_____But it was true.

I thought the desert ended, and I felt
The fountains leap.
Then gratitude could answer gratitude
Till sleep entwined with sleep.
_____Despair once cried: No passion’s left inside!
_____It lied. It lied.


Gray hairs
crowd out the black.
Not one of them
brings me wisdom.

provide no armor.
I still quiver
to anyone’s dart.


Her cough won’t stop. Her bruises will not heal.
She plans her battle-plans for the next meal.
And she is mocked by smells from restaurants
And wasted warmth that steams from subway vents.
No place to hide between concrete and sky:
Snow or knife or eye of passerby
At any time can penetrate her rags.
Mumbling, she guards from thieves her plastic bags
And spreads her cardboard mattress for the night
In shallow doorways raw with sulphurous light.

Here is the pain outside of hospitals.
Here is the scribbled stench on city walls,
On walls of this high-towered metropolis
Whose sidewalks bear the mark of the abyss.
In this loud town, where easy money flows
All ways but down,
___________she walks in dirt-stiff clothes.

________________________(New York City, Winter 1988)


NAOMI REPLANSKY was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1918. Ring Song (Scribner, 1952) was a finalist for the National Book Award in poetry. The Dangerous World: New and Selected Poems 1934-1994 was published by Another Chicago Press in 1994. Her Collected Poems were just published by Godine.

“The Oasis,” “Gray Hairs,” and “On the Street” from Collected Poems by Naomi Replansky, published by Godine/Black Sparrow Books. Copyright © 2012 by Naomi Replanksy. They appear here with permission.

Photo by Robert Giard.

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About: Poetry Editor

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