2019 Sidewalk Poetry

The City of Cambridge has chosen the winners of the fifth annual Sidewalk Poetry Contest. These five poems will be imprinted into the fresh concrete of new sidewalks around the city beginning in fall 2019. The winning poems speak about a spring thaw, a meeting with a nightingale, failing to care for the earth, protecting one's younger self, and how we ignore facts about climate change (a theme encouraged in this year's contest).

Emily H. Axelrod
Elijah Seymour Frydman
David Morin
Henry Shull
Jeffrey Walker

Leslie Borden
Evan Frankel
Robin Goodfellow (Puck) Malamud
Susan Twarog
Mary Sullivan Walsh

The five winners—plus five runners-up—were chosen in March from 96 entries contributed this spring by Cambridge residents, ranging in age from 6 to 86, and hailing from all the neighborhoods of the community. All 10 poets have been invited to read at the Poetry Tent at the 40th annual Cambridge Arts River Festival on June 1, 2019.

Learn more about the program at cambridgeartscouncil.org/poetry. There you can also find a guide map to the sidewalk poems already imprinted across the city.

Entries were reviewed by a selection committee composed of Cambridge poets, a student from the MassLEAP youth poetry program, past Cambridge Poets Populist, and representatives from Cambridge Public Works, Cambridge Public Library, and Cambridge Arts.

The Sidewalk Poetry Contest is a collaborative project of the Department of Public Works, Cambridge Arts, and the Cambridge Public Library.

Here are the winners of the fourth annual Sidewalk Poetry Contest whose poems are scheduled to be imprinted in the concrete of City sidewalks in 2019!

Spring Thaw
Emily H. Axelrod

Greying ice, porous
and pocked with grit,
finally gives way.
In the gutter, urban detritus,
partly covered with leafy skeletons
of ailanthus, pervasive back alley tree.
We walk between the seasons,
face to face with the leftover
artifacts of our days.


The Nightingale and I
Elijah Seymour Frydman

On the street, among the ash,
I lifted my head and saw I was alone,
Save for the nightingale;
I raised my hands like this,
and it began to sing;
It beat its wings and I turned away;
We left the ashen street,
The nightingale and I,


David Morin

When falsehoods keep on pouring down
And facts are left to slowly drown,
We'll never see and never hear
The truths before they disappear.


Gaia's Sighs
Henry Shull

buds sprout people out
rains stop petals drop
sun days hot haze
earth warms new forms
orange red yellow bed
leaves go comes snow
our earth we share
swear to take care
waters rise gaia sighs
billows smoke promise broke


A Bullied Boy Rises
Jeffrey Walker

, now I walk this sidewalk
no longer the boy
they chased home -
fear beating in my throat
wind burning my eyes.
Today I am a man,
reaching to take his hand,
the boy I was
walking with me
finally safe and free.


They Say
Leslie Borden

Honey bees could disappear forever.
Millions have vanished without a trace.
Pathogens, parasites or pesticides,
They say... but I say, they are sick
Of carrying the load.
The workers murmur to each other as
They abandon the brood in their hives.
It's time for human kind, they say,
To make sweetness for the world.


No fault but ours
Evan Frankel

We are nature’s golden children
and its grave mistake.
We watch the dismal future
from a distance.
We watch the torture of our Earth
and we change the channel.
We look for those to blame
but find nothing but mirrors.
Extinction is written on the wall
in our handwriting


Robin Goodfellow (Puck) Malamud

When the storm came, it --
drowned our library,
scattered photographs
all over our neighbors' lawns;
I go out on the deck knowing
my family history is buried there.
I am not ready for the next
inevitable storm --
the devastation of it,
the silence it leaves behind.


Summer Morning
Susan Twarog

A bird chirps
insistently, a siren wails.
Housepainters hike up their ladders,
A truck rumbles noisily
down the street, swiping
an overhanging branch.
I watch the leaves flutter down,
confetti-like, silent.  


Mary Sullivan Walsh

In the garden after the rain,
the vegetables are chatting
in the collapse—the seasons all askew,
dust to rain to dust again—begging
you to remember their blooming velvet,
their color and heat, feather light.
The rain is drying, leaving clear rings,
and here you are—the sun
your yellow eye.  Here an earthworm—
praise it, like a monarch.