“Historic Preservation*” by Yvonne

Venetian? Moorish? I can’t quite place
The wherefore of its preserved elegance—
This quarter-block rental, a dusky pink palace
With high-walled balconies that balance
Utility and fancy—opposite
A self-service laundry, a black-top parking lot.

At twelve, a Saturday pocketbook on my wrist,
I first trod its mute carpet halls
With a short, enfolded donor list
Of Catholic names. I would buzz twice, pause,
Then knock—a bold traveling sales rep for the Lord.
One woman, starched and silvery, never ignored.

A ghost face is all my mind can restore.
No husband, children, not even a cat.
No name—perhaps, a sister on another floor?
Other faithful elders further down Walnut—
Strange…Throughout my teens Mother let me solicit
This way. My peers, off-limit, nearly illicit.


*LaBlanche Apartments is on Philadelphia’s Registry of Historic Places.

First poetry editor of two pioneer feminist magazines, Aphra and Ms., Yvonne has received several awards including NEAs for poetry (1974, 1984) and a Leeway (2003) for fiction (as Yvonne Chism-Peace). Anthologies featuring her poems include: Is It Hot In Here Or Is It Just Me? (Beautiful Cadaver Project), From the Farther Shore (Bass River Press), Home: An Anthology (Flexible), Quiet Diamonds 2019/2018 (Orchard Street), 161 One-Minute Monologues from Literature (Smith and Kraus), This Sporting Life (Milkweed), Bless Me, Father: Stories of Catholic Childhood (Plume), Catholic Girls (Plume/Penguin), Tangled Vines (HBJ), Celebrations: A New Anthology of Black American Poetry (Follett), Pushcart Prize Anthology III, and We Become New (Bantam). Online verse memoir excerpts include: Moria Literary Magazine, Poets Reading the News, American Journal of Poetry, AMP, Deracine V, the WAIF Project, Tipton Poetry Journal, Stonecrop Review, Not Very Quiet, Tiny Seed Literary Journal, Headway Quarterly, Collateral, Brain Mill Press’s Voices, Cahoodaloodaling, Rigorous, Edify Fiction. Yvonne is the author of an epic trilogy: Iwilla Soil, Iwilla Scourge, Iwilla Rise (Chameleon Productions).