The Blue Stoop by Thomas Devaney

Naming is, if not possession, a performance of memory, a ritual of empathy. Thomas Devaney here enunciates a shared smallness writ large, making place of space and era of time, fleshing out a momentariness in terms to stay our bodies.


Zoe Strauss, 4th of July BBQ, 2011, inkjet print/web-based image/digital projection, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist.

The Blue Stoop


Who remembers the blue stoop?

I am laughing at the question—Who?

Everybody. All the names.

Like an early book of the Bible,

it isn’t just names, they go deep

and make three wide steps, three

very wide steps, an everywhere.

There is Franny and Tina.

Amy, Gary, and George. Dawn Ann

and her red-headed brother Bobby.

BA, Matthew, Paula, and Rob.

Tommy Fliss and all the Flisses.

Goddamn Steve Fliss. Steve

smoking Fliss.

Anthony’s mother is leaning out the window.

Does she ever go out? Yes, every day.

She leans out the window all day long.

Anthony’s uncle played the trumpet.

Everybody knows that, but when we say

he played the trumpet

we mean he played with everybody.

Yes, Tony Bennett, but have you ever heard

of Al Martino? Guy Lombardo? People,

big bands—he played with them all,

and in some third-floor heaven he still is.

People say, Once upon a time a call was a dime.

They say more than I can say here.

They say, Don’t forget where you’re from,

but I don’t have to, because I never left.

Recently somebody said the blue stoop looks smaller

than it used to.

I guess they know what they’re talking about,

but don’t tell that to Michael, Michael, and Michael,

and a generation of Roses weaned on a fresh coat

of swimming pool paint every few years.

All the dirty kid faces that will never be clean.

Those are my faces.

Thomas Devaney is the author of two poetry collections, A Series of Small Boxes (Fish Drum) and The American Pragmatist Fell in Love (Banshee Press), as well as a nonfiction book, Letters to Ernesto Neto (Germ Folios). He teaches at Haverford College and is the editor of ONandOnScreen.

Zoe Strauss is a lesbian anarchist from Philadelphia.