The Merchants Shout from the Medinas

Photo, p. 149, from Anarchy, Protest & Rebellion: And the Counterculture that Changed America by Fred W. McDarrah
Tenements along Orchard Street, December 2, 1963

Smoke in the air settles
over the Empire State Building.
We face north on Orchard Street.
It’s not Sunday because cars are parked
on both sides of the street.
This black and white photo camouflages
colorful bargains and, like any bargain,
both parties leave victorious.
Orchard Street, where my family
would stroll through family stalls
among families of jackets,
shirts and sweaters
swinging in the breeze.
We imagined our bodies
filling out those garments.
The allure of plaids, stripes,
and cheap prices. There’s
a headless seersucker suit
dangling from a fire escape.
Five stories above, a clothesline hangs;
the unabashed underwear
reveal their secrets.
The sell, the haggle, the triumph
in soft cotton and supple leather.
This bazaar stretches
thousands of years back.
Four years after this photo was taken,
three blocks from here,
a gang hung a hippy in effigy
to welcome me to the neighborhood:
bodegas, cock fights
with a whiff of sour pickles
drowning in barrels.
I’m on the hunt for a three-pack
of Fruit of the Loom briefs.
Whatever the salesman says
I’ll offer a dollar less.

Interrupted by the Sea, Paul Lieber’s second collection of poetry, was published in 2018 (What Books Press). His first collection, Chemical Tendencies (Tebot Bach Press), was a finalist in the Main Street Rag Poetry Contest. He also received an honorable mention in the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Award. Three times nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Paul produced and hosted Why Poetry on Pacifica Radio in L.A. and Santa Barbara. Guests included Poet Laureates, National Book Award Winners and many known and lesser-known poets. Paul’s poems have appeared in The Moth, New York Quarterly, Paterson Literary Review, Askew, Poemeleon, Alimentum, and many other journals and anthologies. He taught creative writing at Loyola Marymount University and facilitated the poetry workshop at Beyond Baroque, the oldest literary institute in Los Angeles.

Paul works as an actor. He currently teaches at AMDA. His website: http://www.paullieber.com.

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