2020 Countdown, day eight: Merry Tomorrow!











Today, on the eighth day till the end of 2020, let’s spend a moment, if you have it, with poet Miguel Algarín. Like Naomi Long Madgett and Natan Zach, he died this past November.


Today is also Christmas Eve, a day of anticipation, and so Algarín ‘s poem “Not Tonight but Tomorrow” seems just the thing. I left the poem in three places, the first one, featured below, on a telephone pole in a neighborhood in Detroit.




Not Tonight but Tomorrow (1978)

by Miguel Algarín


Not tonight but tomorrow

when the light turns the peach

tree green and the Earth sprouts

its young leaves looking to repeat

the magical mystery tour of

photosynthetic conversion of light

and moisture into life—

Not tonight but tomorrow

when my body will have shed

its fear of turning old and soft

will I turn my speeding mind

into the tunnels of your psyche

to melt the calcium that constipates

your synapses into a lubricating powder—

Not tonight but tomorrow

when the Universe moves on

beyond the field of action

that is the Earth to me and you

will I discover the interplanetary clues

that signal the roots of my moment to you—

Not tonight but tomorrow

will I throw my feelings into

New York streets to stew

in the violence and despair

of our planet—

Not tonight but tomorrow

will the Earth turn green again.



I’m short on time this Christmas Eve, so this post will be photo-heavy and text-brief.


There’s a lot going on in this poem and I’m not sure I get all the particulars. . .  science and metaphysics were never my bag . . . but without understanding every phrase, I feel the energy of the speaker, spilling over line by line. I feel his hope. Are there more hopeful words than “Not tonight but tomorrow”? It’s what I leave you with on this Christmas Eve. And a few pictures.


I taped another copy of the poem near the entrance to the emergency room at our local hospital. (It was impossible to get nearer without paying for parking.)


poem is on orange traffic cone


Like everyone else, I am grateful to and concerned for our health care workers and for their patients struggling to survive. A prayer (or a wish if you like) for them in the dark of a winter pandemic surge—


Not tonight but tomorrow

will the Earth turn green again.




I gave a third copy to a man named Terrence who I met delivering a different poem (“Midway”) in downtown Detroit. You see him here, he has no gloves, and it was cold.



“Can I keep it?” he asked. Maybe he was humoring me, but he seemed glad to have it. When I told him it was a poem about hope, he said, “I can use some of that.”


Can’t we all? Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all. I’ll be back next week.




Short bio because there’s lots of cooking to do. Link here for a good obituary. He had a big, impactful life.


Miguel Algarín was born in Puerto Rico in 1941. His family moved to New York City in 1950. He got his bachelors from University of Wisconsin, his masters at Pennsylvania State University and his PhD in comparative literature at Rutgers, where he later taught Shakespeare.


He started a salon of sorts in his East Village apartment, and needing more space, opened the Nuyorican Poets Café on the lower east side. It became a famous and beloved performance space.


He died at age 79.


Note:  The majority of pictures of Algarín show him laughing. Must have been a lovely fellow.


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