A Collage of Oshkosh
Oshkosh, a collage of winter images
Christmas trees marking the road home
on the frozen lake
Shanties against a gray sky
Red ice boats scratching blue.
People zipzooping in snowpants
gathering under tents on the ice
for the Fisheree.
Just down from a dark pool
cut into the ice so people
in coordinated costumes can
hold hands and fling themselves
into frigid for the Special Olympics
Oshkosh, a collage of summer images
Boats burble as they dock
at a downtown restaurant or
at the Leach to listen to music
Perhaps they jostled the fishing boats
bobbing under a bridge.
or a family of ducks floating
along the Fox River.
Seasoned citizens shopping for rutabagas
Mix with newly minted adults in sundresses
waiting for Bubble Tea,
the smile exchanged between
shopper and Hmong farmer
the best teacher of harmony.
Local musicians at the intersection draw
an audience on white plastic chairs-
their music drifts into the open doors
of the art galleries and the hardware store
while further down someone busks
an instrument, an open case, and patience.
Oshkosh, a collage of the change seasons
Kids in distressed jeans and team jerseys
posing for senior pictures
against the battered wooden doors
of the downtown alleys
or on the grassy square
with an instrument or their team ball
Piles of belongings all in a line
waiting to ascend into the dorms.
Down the street from the university
all ages stroll through
the tulips and the art shows
of a mansion’s garden.
The Memorial Day March-
gray-haired men and women
wave from Cadillac SUVs
in the solemn procession
down Algoma Blvd.
We stand, put our hands to our hearts
out of respect for what we have
and what others have lost.
Oshkosh, diverse, in some ways divided
Yet we have no shortages of bridges
that can bring us together. After all,
at times opposing views can both be true
It’s probably what makes us strong.
All of our kids deserve the best school
yet new isn’t what makes ours good
Even as we complain about roads narrowing
we find comfort that our own crosswalk is safer.
Oshkosh, a city with what it needs
Good companies to work for.
Skilled people to make them good.
Safe roads to bring us home.
Homes to give us a sense of ourselves.
while striving for better.
Oshkosh, the city
with its name on the trucks
in the 4th of July parade.
Oshkosh, a city of adapted promises
The shore of the river once dusted with prosperity
shines better with entertainment
Sawdust city gives way to Event city.
Oshkosh, a city of wards with histories.
You can tell which neighborhood
by the types of homes lining the street.
But I also believe that if you close your eyes,
neighbor talking to neighbor sounds the same.
we are one community
growing stronger with concern
for those on the opposite
side of the street.
Can Oshkosh become all of its promises?
The answer is simple
If this small city, can become
The busiest airport in the world.
We can do anything.
I am the inaugural poet laureate of Oshkosh. There are many things I want to do with my position, but I believe I can be of service by reminding people of how important Oshkosh is. I was asked to write a poem for the 2022 State of the City address. I hope I can help people recognize how special Oshkosh is. Writing it really drove that home for me. I’d like to read the poem for you right now.
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