Literature 7-21-2008

What Light: This Week’s Poem: Todd Pederson

Read "Middle C (Greenwich Village)" by What Light veteran Todd Pederson, this week's winning poem selected by Bryan Thao Worra.


Middle C (Greenwich Village)
Concerning The Church of the Ascension

Your afternoon with its arch & fountain
                             in the middle, chess tables, & sunlight’s
response across Washington Square. Paused
                             at the crossing of a cathedral
                              & June, three pretty
         alternative undergrads recite
                    the best lines from American punk, map
themselves backward
all the way from NYU into the Village; the place you buy an orange
& reconsider those Sundays
                   on your knees with the ascension,
                   when the Heavens broke apart
                             for the substantial
                             open spaces & thoughtful
         glitter off each apprentice year.

Now the unreserved laughter
                             their false starts leaves the crosswalk, passes
green aisles of gingkos & the Episcopal
                             urban gospel
                             of your favorite
         teahouse brunch. A fast Jetta pivots
against the light & you pull back
the last gingered stitch of rind. Further than they are, now Ascension’s tower calls
Greenwich & The Square to lunch, declares
                   this as your better end—a tableside
                    perspective with sexy
                             bowls of Thai egg noodles;
                             coffee thick with your devotion
         to girls & conversation & one blonde
                    teaspoon of sweet condensed milk.


For me, poetry is the response to what are often simple, yet commanding, occurrences—such as an affecting scene from a favorite movie. The most gratifying ideas are those which increase and reach, inexplicably, for one or more seemingly disparate elements of my life and draw them into the piece—with this poem, love; guilt and privilege; a passing lament for the recklessness of adolescence. In these moments, poetry surpasses a string of lines and stanzas written on a page; poetry becomes the medium through which I (perhaps, we) celebrate this life’s great joys, and overcome its disappointments. Middle C is from a series of poems which reflects on large and small human abstractions—notions such as joy and loss, or salvation and sensuality. The sequence was inspired by jazz compositions and intervals on the musical scale, as well as the historic churches of Manhattan Island.


Todd Pederson is a technical writer for a biomedical research corporation in Chaska, and a student in the MFA program at Hamline University. Todd lives in Eden Prairie with his wife and two children, whom he thanks for their patience and inspiration.