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Walnut Street, by Ernest Hilbert

Photo by Niamh O'Connell

Walnut Street

I dodge down the crowded July street,

Breathing garbage and humid perfume.

The stifling block is wild at noon.

Stores prop their doors open to lure in buyers.

Banks of icy air waft out in columns,

And I cross through one and nearly shiver.

As I delve once again into warmth,

I remember swimming in cedar lakes

That flashed like dirty tin in summer,

Buoyed in greasy tea-stained water.

We kicked to keep afloat near the adults,

Then raced past the roped orange markers.

The lifeguard's whistle pierced our splashes.

Undercurrents from freezing springs gushed

On our bellies, then sun-kettled eddies, then cold,

Paddling and lunging for those small islands

That seemed to recede with each breathless lash

Of our arms through the churned, cloudy water.

— Ernest Hilbert

Ernest Hilbert's debut collection is Sixty Sonnets (2009). His second collection of poetry, All of You on the Good Earth, will appear in 2013. He lives in Philadelphia.