Today there are strange, flightless birds.

They preen and strut, they pass in an endless pageant

of wenches, fools and dumb-show grotesques,

they glisten like plastic and spilled beer.

Today is nostalgic belief in some primal order

of things — the ritual, drunken gaiety,

the oily wigs and sweat-stained frocks,

the lupine smiles of desperate men,

their eyes as deep as the corner drains.

This is the new year in Philadelphia.

And this is the way things need to be —

the feathers and sequins of faith

and assumption, the gaudy illusions

of paupers and pilgrims,

fashioning hope

and finding oblivion.

— George McDermott

After five years as a high school English teacher in Center City Philadelphia, George McDermott recently moved to Boston and resumed his career as a freelance writer. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as Pivot, Fox Chase Review, Apiary, Many Mountains Moving, and Clarion. He is also a poetry editor of Philadelphia Stories.