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By Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Retired ballerinas on winter afternoons   
          walking their dogs
                      in Central Park West
    (or their cats on leashes—
       the cats themselves old highwire artists)   
The ballerinas
                leap and pirouette
                           through Columbus Circle   
         while winos on park benches
               (laid back like drunken Goudonovs)   
            hear the taxis trumpet together
               like horsemen of the apocalypse   
                               in the dusk of the gods   
It is the final witching hour
                when swains are full of swan songs   
    And all return through the dark dusk   
                to their bright cells
                                  in glass highrises
      or sit down to oval cigarettes and cakes   
                              in the Russian Tea Room   
    or climb four flights to back rooms
                                 in Westside brownstones   
               where faded playbill photos
                        fall peeling from their frames   
                            like last year’s autumn leaves


Lawrence Ferlinghetti, “Retired Ballerinas, Central Park West” from These Are My Rivers. Copyright © 1981 by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. Reprinted with the permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation, www.wwnorton.com/nd/welcome.htm.

Source: These Are My Rivers: New and Selected Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1993)

  • Arts & Sciences

Poet Bio

Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Lawrence Ferlinghetti is best known for his rejection of traditional artistic and social ideas, a challenge that inspired a generation of writers in the 1950s known as the “Beats.” As a forerunner of the group, he opened the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco in 1953. It became a major destination for freethinking writers and artists from all over the U.S., and also served as an independent publisher of “Beat” poetry, including his own, A Coney Island of the Mind (1958). Considered a historical benchmark for the time-period, that book maintains its place as one of the best-selling volumes of poetry of all time. The City Lights Bookstore remains a beacon for unorthodox writers and artists to this day. See More By This Poet

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Constantly Risking Absurdity (#15)

Constantly risking absurdity
                                             and death
            whenever he performs
                                        above the heads
                                                            of his audience
   the poet like an acrobat
                                 climbs on rime
                                          to a high wire of his own making
and balancing on eyebeams
                                     above a sea of faces
             paces his way
                               to the other side of...

By Lawrence Ferlinghetti

  • Arts & Sciences

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