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Heads Up poetry column: Nobody Dies in the Spring

Nobody Dies in the Spring

By Philip Appleman

Nobody dies in the spring

on the Upper West Side:

nobody dies.

On the Upper West Side

we’re holding hands with strangers

on the Number 5 bus,

and we’re singing the sweet

graffiti on the subway,

and kids are skipping patterns through

the bright haze of incinerators,

and beagles and poodles are making a happy

ruin of the sidewalks,

and hot-dog men are racing

their pushcarts down Riverside Drive,

and Con Ed is tearing up Broadway

from Times Square to the Bronx,

and the world is a morning miracle

of sirens and horns and jackhammers

and Baskin-Robbins’ 31 kinds of litter

and sausages at Zabar’s floating

overhead like blimps—oh,

it is no place for dying, not

on the Upper West Side, in springtime.

There will be a time

for the smell of burning leaves at Barnard,

for milkweed winging silky over Grant’s Tomb,

for apples falling to grass in Needle Park;

but not in all this fresh new golden

smog: now there is something

breaking loose in people’s chests,

something that makes butchers and bus boys

and our neighborhood narcs and muggers

go whistling in the streets—now

there is something with goat feet out there, not

waiting for the WALK light, piping

life into West End window-boxes,

pollinating weeds around

condemned residential hotels,

and prancing along at the head

of every elbowing crowd on the West Side,


Follow me—it’s spring—

and nobody dies.