As a tribute to the centennial of the ABC Condominiums, an esteemed poet and resident, Mary Jo Bang, penned the following:

A is for A, B is for Building’s,
C is for Curtained, D is for Destiny

Hexagonal history marked in the marred foyer floor,

A shifting sea-surge of feet trespassing

On the over-and-done-with of the others

Who came before. The door opens.  Someone new

Enters the picture. And then that one moves on

And out into the mutable world. From the outside,

Looking in, each window is an eye: Look, Darling,

It’s a diorama — and the people, they walk

And they talk! Cold winter streams in from the forest

Across the boulevard. Fandango of cars. It’s hard,

This gate keep, this watch heap, this building

Building its own bildungsroman — a novel

Of formation now taking the form of a composite

Of lives: A Mister K in 1A meets Miss B of 4C

On the stairs. How do you do? A satin-feeling felt hat tips,

A head tilts. A pageant of puppets in time changing costumes

Keeps up — the floor-length gives way to midi and mini,

A morning coat to the much-mourned passing of customs.

But still, there is please and a thank you. For what?

For what else? The roof over us. The floor under us. For a house


Full of strangers from which is knit, for a minute, a loose fabric

like family. What does a century mean but a multitude

Of moments forming a seamless skein.

Unfurled, the threads net a network

Of paint and paste papered walls, windows and worn

Rugs with imprints of spindled table legs lending the texture

A pattern on pattern. Summer comes again

And again, a hectic heating of stone, hot white

On the surface. Sullen air, sulky nights. Don’t forget,

Someone says and someone forgets

That the wrought iron elevator is rising to get them.

It descends. A face in the polished brass disappears

Through the open door. Summer ends at its end.

The boulevard flowers fade, the tethered trees

That edge the forest green turn and fall

Arrives. Not once but one hundred times. That’s history,

My dear, and it is a method of interrogation.

A certain curtain that cuts off the past and opens at last

To let in a little light. The sheer strangeness of interrogating

A room: Whatever did you hold before you held me?


Sometimes the walls hum and one hears

The thoroughly urban: the siren’s

Complicated signature of vicissitudes, that reliable

Indicator of one type of activity. Think of the decades

That went by when time was busy ticking.

Think of the changing nature

Of closets, the shoes on the floor, the newspapers

Lining the shelves. What? Yes, I’m coming.

The maid scurries off after a rattail

Comb from her lady’s dresser, mahogany veneer

With brass plate pulls. She does her lady’s hair.

Do we dare say, Those were the days? We would

Have to add, For whom? A chain link breaks.

Someone blinks. The lapdog becomes a laptop.

A Great Dane becomes a grain of salt between

Floorboards, missed by the mop year after year.

A hatpin is a lost rivet walled off by a renovation.

Stasis is also quiescence but neither lasts for long.

A sound disturbs the sooted night, hail rattles

The curved glass, ice cubes fall to the floor of a tumbler. 


What can you say about today? Sunny with chance

Of cloud cover, stars obscured by brighter light.

There is deterioration, yes, but something else as well.

A wellspring of newness, of restoration.

Look out the window; here, everyone has some:

The trees are their leaves and then, presto,

It’s spring and that’s lovely. A rain

Of roots gains a foothold. Blossoms say look and promise

To be for a better instant. An orchid strangeness,

As in rare. As in beauty. Against the quotidian

Foot on the carpet, the frame on the wall.

The name on the mailbox that keeps a life straight.

What do you hate? Nothing. Or maybe

That wall in the hall with its crack that lets in the past.

We can fix it. We can.  And we will

It to be easy. But it isn’t always. Something worth doing,

Mother said, is worth doing well. The chorus of the invisible

Pipes is quieted, the lights on the outside

Are lit. It’s a race with time and a packet of plenty.

A president’s huge head stares out from the twenty.


Goodnight Ladies, Goodnight. And also to the men,

And the movers who are coming and going yet again.

Hey nonny no. They wave as they go. Goodnight

To the pets and the pantries. Goodnight

To the windows through which we watch

The world unfolding its automotive moments

Along with a sooty drawing of an auto-de-fé.

Let’s leave that display. A song

From Peggy Lee is drifting through the keyhole:

Is That All There Is? No doubt

You wished for more. For that, you must go out

The door. Pack your purse or your pocket,

Leave your key with a man named Lamar.

Don’t go too far. Come back when you’re finished.

Click the lock and climb into your bed.

Let your head rest on the down of a lay-down,

The pillow that’s called part-peace-and-part-sorrow.

In the cupboard is the not yet

Cup of tomorrow. The dim stars shine a hush light

On the darkness of night, and the alphabet building sleeps.

by Mary Jo Bang, June 29, 2005