We’re pleased to share two poems from Jennifer Wallace’s forthcoming book, It Can be Solved by Walking, a poetic sequence and collection of photographs that search for the place of self and the collective (human and nonhuman) in Baltimore’s urban ecosystem. The book will be published by CityLit Press in April, 2012.

Jennifer is Humanistic Studies faculty at MICA — she teaches creative writing courses, literary documentary and interdisciplinary courses dealing with ecological themes.

In love
because the city won’t let up
no matter how much rocking.
In love with this city
as if a surprise walked through the door
wearing suspenders and red-striped pants.
In love with the intersection
and its ingenious abutment of asphalt and grit
where chicory roots in their joining
and age-old rainwater bubbles in the gutter,
bobbing toward the harbor and the sea.
In love with the difficult stories
because they are not mine, because they are mine.
The just-after-dawn light
like Caravaggio’s on the row house bricks.

It can be solved by walking
or take a bike.
Something slower than driving.
Something less contained, especially. Something
that permits a breeze or a squirrel to enter, a rat
to rattle you—that sort of surprise
the kind that’s overruled by ‘the speed and strength
that is the armor of the world.’

Unplug the ears.
The honks and screeches roll in like Mozart. Unbuckle
the distaste for poverty and grit.

The world is either a beautiful iceberg
or a mountaintop
thrown from its source to the faraway sea.
And the gods, who aren’t believed in anymore, are out there hiding
behind windows, under the stoops.

One of them struts the sidewalks with his two-colored hat.
One side of the street sees red. The other side, green.
He passes again with his hat flipped around just for fun.
Everyone goes to court. It’s a kind of togetherness.
All of us arguing and ‘shining like the sun.’

“It can be solved by walking” is inspired by the medieval Christian practice of
pilgrimage and meditation, solvitar ambulando. The poem also quotes Frank O’Hara and Thomas Merton, and draws from a Nigerian folk tale re-told by Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth.

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