Litany for a Better Baltimore


Litany for a Better Baltimore

You are the Angel on every corner

the last choir

life’s deliverer and death’s powdery hand

You are the Man in the Mirror

the jittery birds calling on the fence

You are the breeze that blows in every season

catching up what’s left

startling the school boys


whistling at nothing

You are for better or worse, more or less home

but you are not the sum of this earthly calculus

You are not the welcome mat on the stoop

or even the raven come back to roost

And you are certainly not the hard shells

and claws of the summer’s feast

picked clean and put out

with yesterday’s news

It is possible that you are the gun and the knife

most days you are the gun and the knife

Some days you are also the needle

Other days you are the wild clump of black-eyed susans

the yellow-topped coddie on crackers

the unexpected cornflowers

in bloom

on the vacant lot

But even on the best days you are not the faded slogan

on the bus stop bench – there is no way you are the faded slogan

on the bus stop bench

And a quick look in the rearview will show

you are neither the empty shoes dangling from the wire

nor the fraying teddy bear at the base of the street lamp

It might interest you to know

since we’re trying to keep it real

that I am what makes this city tick

I also happen to be what’s growing in the green space

the single point of light shining in the dark alley

and the check you can take all the way to the bank

I am also the hope that faces forward

the sure thing

the safe bet

the sound investment

But don’t worry, I am not the wild clump of black-eyed susans

You are still the wild clump of black-eyed susans –

I need you to be the wild clump of black-eyed susans,

not to mention the unexpected cornflowers – heads up, electric blue,

fearless in the white sun


Poet Laureate of the U.S.(2001- 2003) Billy Collins inspired this take on his poem entitled Litany, where “you” is Baltimore and “I” is a Caroline Center graduate. Additional inspiration came from Michael Jackson’s amazing “Man in the Mirror” and from Claire Hartman’s poems in What It Takespoetry that resonates the collective voice of Caroline Center women and their stories of positive change.

Caroline Center starts this New Year in a remarkable state of grace – by being able to offer its tuition-free program to women at a second site in West Baltimore. In making this commitment to Baltimore, we remain confident that the best way to build a better city begins with women, with access to excellent education and career training, and with sustainable work with opportunities for advancement.


This entry was posted in Baltimore City, Better Baltimore, Freddie Gray, Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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