A Collage of Oshkosh

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.