Word that Somersaults

Martín Espada
Poet, Essayist, Editor & Translator

Like a Word That Somersaults Through the Air


for Abe Osheroff, 1915-2008


His life begins with the rain, and the soggy cushions

of a couch left by the landlord to die on a Brooklyn sidewalk

in the year 1930. His life begins at age fifteen, Abe

the high school wrestler straining the cords in his neck


to lift the couch with the other boys back through the doorway

of a tenement in Brownsville. His life begins with a woman

who could not pay the rent, staring dumbstruck on the corner

at the miracle of eviction evicted, the landlord a lord no more,


her sons and daughters trailing in a procession after the sofa.

His life begins with the cop who arrives on the corner

waving a revolver, the gun Abe snatches away to toss

across the pavement, squinting into the face of his first arrest.


His life begins with a cop’s revolver bouncing off the asphalt,

like a word that somersaults through the air and cannot be unsaid.



From The Trouble Ball



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