NYCWP Voices

NYCWP Voices: Four poems by Saara Liimatta

January 10, 2017

Last Updated on by Jane Higgins

Once monthly, the New York City Writing Project celebrates the teacher-as-writer by publishing works of poetry and prose written by its teachers. If you are interested in submitting your work to NYCWP Voices, please read the submissions guidelines and submit your work by email to




An image came today

Of my grandfather’s leg.

Front, under the knee,

A cavern of

Sunken, waxy skin,

Deep hollows of

Red and vein.


Wore the bone away.

Flesh caved

Around what

Was left for




Your skin,

Dark from the sun,

Smelled of sawdust.

You seemed made

Of land,

Holding a potato

In your hand you

Looked the same.


You would pick up snakes

In your garden and snap

Their necks

And you would bomb


And your white hair

Rose from your

Head in wild

Solid tufts



When I complained

Of a small

Pain in my ankle


Your leg flashed

Before me.

You carried


For so long,

Without complaint,

You fed us

From your garden.

I’ve never tasted corn

Like yours again

Golden crisp and sweet

Butter dripping down our


Succulent feasts

From your hands

Never again

Will there be

Such strength.




You won’t get it right the first time.

No one does.

The heart you thought

You were looking for

Is not the heart you want.

Cut it out. Kill it.

Look somewhere you didn’t think

Mattered. There is the one

Thing you need to see.

It might be quiet, neglected,

Empty in its present state.

This will make you angry.

You will want to fill it out,

Right away. But don’t.

Let it breathe through silence.

Give it time.

Let it pour out of you,

Or into you,

Saying what it has to.

You will want to say something else.


There is something else,

Bigger, pushing through the edge.

Some pulse,




WALNUT & 43rd

Life wants.


Grow on a wrecked porch,

Delicate tendrils shooting up.


On the corner,

A swarm of kids,


Starting hips.

One has on makeup,

Too much.

They go to the store to

Buy candy, then stand

On the corner, waiting.


I stand,

Mother to no one,

Wanting to say,

Be careful where you go,

Every turn will

Make a difference.


Or “Go home”

There’s nothing for you here,

On this corner,

In this dirty part of town.


But youth will have its brightness

It will claim light

Where it can find it.


An El Camino

Rounds the corner.

I imagine jumping in


And starting over,

Far from home.




Beginning to think

I don’t know what poetry is

Without symmetry,

There seems no reason

To force the issue.


At the beach yesterday

I saw a gull,

One of his webbed feet

missing, he had a

Stub leg like a lollipop stick.


Can’t help but wonder why

this gull jumps back every time someone



While another sweeps the sky effortlessly,

The arc of its flight pure poetry,

It parachutes perfectly to the sand below,

Barely raising a grain.


Toward closing time, the gulls curl up on

The sand, beaks tucked into backs and

We humans have to leave.

But I don’t want to.


I want to sit with

The gulls and will

Myself to wind.

saara-headshot-010817 SAARA LIIMATTA teaches English at the Urban Assembly School for Criminal Justice, an all-girls school in Borough Park, Brooklyn. She just completed her thirteenth year of teaching. She earned an M.A. from the New School for Social Research in Gender Studies and Feminist Theory and an M.A. in Secondary Education/English from Brooklyn College. In 2016, she was named one of the NYCWP’s Writers-in-Residence, a post she continued into the fall semester as part of the next cohort. She is a poet and personal essayist. This is her first publication.