The following is a poem from the early 1980s, which appears in my book “Strong Place” (1984). This poem was also one of four featured in Yankee magazine in 2009. Merrimack Street is the same and different today, with preserved buildings and a new array of businesses for the most part. — PM
The place yours for once, or again,
you walk down Merrimack,
past Jordan’s minimalist window dressing,
one black torso filling a yellow sweater,
and the CVS, door open, scent of candy and medicine;
past Cherry’s, the manikins severe;
past Prince’s books and the shoe store,
all those objects behind plate glass
creating a museum of the ordinary.
The entire street is the Mundane Institute,
commerce having surrendered at five o’clock,
when the human push changed direction.
There’s no ambition in things.
This is the moment to look.
With no merchant presenting it,
the shoe is like a flower, a stone.
Farther on, the landmark clock in the Square
and SUN building, for years
the closest thing to a skyscraper–
across the street Meehan Tours, Christian Science Room,
then the murky canal under the bridge
and hissing pipe by the railing.
The Auditorium and Massachusetts Mills over there,
and to the right, beyond the parking lot,
what’s left of the Strand, which featured
A Hard Day’s Night almost twenty years ago.
At this hour I know the meaning of familiar,
know this is where I am, and know some of what was,
what is, and where Bridge Street goes,
yet know so little, not knowing the other stories.
—Paul Marion (c) 1984, 2013