~57 pages, $14 cover price
~57 pages, $14 cover price
Nancy Scott is the managing editor of U.S.1 Worksheets, the journal of the US.1 Poets’ Cooperative in New Jersey. She is the author of six collections of poetry: Down to the Quick (Plain View Press, 2007), One Stands Guard, One Sleeps (Plain View Press, 2009), A Siege of Raptors (Finishing Line Press, 2010), Detours & Diversions (Main Street Rag, 2011), On Location (March Street Press, 2011), and Midwestern Memories (Aldrich Press, 2014). Her poetry has been published in numerous journals and anthologies, including Witness, Slant, Mudfish, Slipstream, The Ledge, Poet Lore, Pemmican, Exit 13, Verse Wisconsin, Raven Chronicles, Qarrtsiluni, Blue Lyra Review, San Pedro River Review, and Journal of New Jersey Poets. She has also received a Ragdale fellowship. Originally from the Chicago area, Nancy has lived in New Jersey for many years. www.nancyscott.net.
Nancy Scott takes us along on visits with people who are usually invisible, kids who age out of foster care, grownups who go off their meds, women who spend their days among social service offices. She gives them voice, and dignity, even when they’re “out the door faster than imagination.” Her passionate work is “insistent like a ragged shutter on a windy night,” and it, too, keeps us awake, and calls us to make repairs.
–Tina Kelley, co-author of Almost Home: Helping Kids Move fom Homelessness to Hope
Nancy Scott is truly a voice crying in the wilderness. She has earned her voice by years of work among the poorest of our poor—those struggling on the edges of our broken health, education, and welfare systems. She has listened carefully and now bears witness. You may need to read this book slowly, a few poems at a time. These are not pretty stories—they will trouble your spirit and break your heart.
–Kelley Jean White, MD, author of Toxic Environment
In Running Down Broken Cement, Nancy Scott asks us to bear witness with her. This is the book to read if you want to know what it’s like to struggle in an America only too willing to pretend things aren’t so bad. Things are worse than you might suspect. That’s why we need poets like Scott: fierce in compassion and anger—and fearless too. And heroic in their determination to ask hard questions of their craft and of their country.
–Christopher Bursk, author of The Improbable Swervings of Atoms
When she heard the child cry out,
her right arm jerked to a grotesque angle,
fingers splayed and froze.
She dragged her twisted right leg,
foot curled inward, as she limped
across the floor.
From its crib, the child reached out perfect arms,
kicked its bare feet against the bars,
insistent like a ragged shutter
on a windy night.
With her left hand, she squeezed rigid
fingers into a fist, bent her shoulders
and gently scooped the child with her forearms.
Gurgling, the child nuzzled against her neck.
She crooned a lullaby of lemon trees
and goat bells tinkling,
the music of laughter
of shoes dancing, hands clapping
to the beat of the tarantella.
In this way Rosalita taught the child
how to make its body sing.
A blond man gaunt with AIDS
teaches his dark infected foster child
a nursery rhyme.
Word by spout he becomes a teapot,
spout by arm she mimics him.
Dying man, dying child.
Tulips whirl on her pinafore,
as he lifts her to his bone-thin hip.
More, she cries.
He shakes his head.
Tomorrow. No more today.
Be quiet, Mama says, before she turns the key.
In the morning we’ll do something special.
Don’t want him to think I’ve got a child.
He fears what comes in at night. Imagines
the stranger’s body wrapped around his mama.
Hears the groaning and thinks the man must be
hurting her. He whimpers but there’s nothing
he can do locked in Mama’s closet.
From his dark outpost, he tries to peek
through the strip of light beneath the door,
but can’t see anything. Like an odd shoe
among tossed pairs, he rubs his hand along
the edges, feels tiny stones, straps, laces.
Hopes he won’t have to pee.
He listens, but can’t hear any sound now
except a wailing siren from the street.
Is Mama dead? He wants to pound the door
and scream but knows the stinging buckle.
He nuzzles Mama’s dresses, smells her smell,
then twists a piece of hem until he falls asleep.
Waking stiff and cold, he’s bewildered
for a moment, then grabs the knob
and bursts into the morning light.
Mama’s snoring in their bed.
He dares not wake her. Sour milk
for cereal, no one to tie his sneakers.
He’ll watch cartoons on the snowflake TV.
Mama will sleep ’til noon.