Brown Street

by Paula Amen Judah



I want to walk

with my mother on

Brown Street again,

catch the breath of

clothy steam from

Money's Cleaners,

hear the bell jingling

against the thick glass door as

patrons come and go,

see Mr. Money

counting out change

into the cupped hands of children

sent in to pick up

their father's slacks.


I want to shade my

eyes against the

dark blue glint of

the tiles that line the

front of the Napa P.D.

where I posed


and alone in 

my Easter bonnet,

chin and mouth

turned down, beneath

the shadow of my

sister's stiff refusal

to enter the picture.


I want to walk

with my mother on

Brown Street again,

visit the wide lobby

of the Plaza Hotel,

its overstuffed chairs with

their rough upholstery

sitting just inside the door,

the smell of bourbon

trailing over from

Novelli's bar where

through a red straw

I tasted my first

Shirley Temple,

waiting in the muted light with dad

and the rest of the cops

for the bus to the 49er game.


I want to run

with my mother

across Brown Street

in the early morning,

skip up the stairs of

the old Court House

past suited lawyers

and punctual clerks

and men in overalls,

want to hear again

the echo of footsteps

on marble floors, the

sound of the bailiff's

steady All rise,

the strike of the 

gavel's authority

on dark wood.

I want to inhale the

air of that reliable

building and stop

to read the gold print

on the windowed doors:


             Superior Court


I want to walk with my mother

on Brown Street again.





Paula Amen Judah

Paula Amen Judah is a writer born in the Nebraska and raised in Napa, California. On a solo camping trip north, she fell in love with the Siskiyou Mountains and settled there working as a high school counselor and poetry teacher. She co-authored If Not to History: Recovering the Stories of Women in Napa, 2007 and Napa Valley Farming, 2011. Her first chapbook, Premonition, was published by Cordella Magazine in 2012. A second chapbook, Añoranza, will be released in 2016.