Purposely avoiding a response to current events, I’m revisiting some brief pieces of writing. Some are early; some are recent. They are a welcome distraction from thinking about the present.
From the bus, the plane, the car
that dragged me to some captivity—
to home—to school or work—
I would watch the lit-up windows.
Scattered over farmland or tucked
in the curves of overpasses, those kitchens,
those living rooms would be warm, I would drink tea,
and in those rooms I would learn a very important secret.
In the spring, when most of the snow had melted,
the 7th-grade girls played dodge-ball
in the field behind the school.
“And if you died?” his social worker asked.
“If I died, you’d close the folder.”
Everyone was late to the OCD clinic
because of the sign outside:
Please Wipe Your Feet.
43rd Street Haiku
In the gutter outside Nathan’s,
a dead knish.
I have imagined myself
the lover of multitudes
and the hero of millions
as I lie in my room, listening
to the radiator hiss.
The Snow Queen
As if in a dream I saw her,
but I was awake, watching the storm
through panes cleared by my breath,
through the swarming snow, her eyes
brighter than moonlight
and the smile of her blue lips.
Pomegranate juice runs down your chin.
We spit the seeds into the grass.
I lick your fingers.
Wars, disease, insane gunmen,
lightning, earthquakes, accidents—
so many ways that lives are lost,
and only one of you!
The Cat Woman
There is only one way to enter her.
I nuzzle her behind the ears, hold her sleek waist,
as she tickles my chin and nipples
with her tail.
When you’re early for your bus,
it pulls in late.
When you’re two minutes late,
it left on time.
Like all of us—crippled and blessed
by the human condition.
I almost don’t want to find them,
lost friends and relatives
with their news of who’s been sick or died,
of what’s unrecognizable now,
and reminders of what might have been.
The curse of the talented:
to always ask
Was I too nice to be a genius?
purple, yellow, red.
sheets and shirts
lifeless on the line.
A man bends
with reverence into
the jaws of his car.
The wind ripples
the grass, the way a cat’s fur
A dog chases
the train. And if
he catches it?
of dark houses.
A hawk glides
across the moon.
Mice, look out!
I touch the stairs outside to see if there’s ice.
You fear the driving and doubt the radio’s report
of freezing surfaces only in the north.
So I’m outside in the dark, in the rain, in pajamas,
touching the stairs and finding them wet.
Your tongue inside your mouth
from the strawberry you ate.
Someone wrote to me:
“I am tying up my letters from you
with a ribbon, so my grandchildren
will find them that way.”
This is not an exact quotation,
since I didn’t keep her letter.
pass in the night.
In the autumn they crunch.
Thank you for your letter.
You might have phoned instead,
but I couldn’t keep a phone call in my pocket
and take it out to read
now and then.
I realized that material possessions
and worldly success were meaningless
when I was a failure and had nothing,
but I questioned the meaning of failure
and decided I was okay.
Watch the sky closely: those clouds aren’t moving;
it’s we who are moving, our island is drifting . . .
Manhattan . . . America . . . Earth . . . all of us
and everything we’ve packed to bring with us . . .
slowly drifting . . . where currents and wind,
chance and time are taking us.
If you have holes in some of your socks,
you can never go into a shoe store
On the D Train
The latch of a man’s attaché case slips open.
The secrets we strain to look at
are only books, papers, a pocket tissues pack.
Please stop doing that
or you’ll trigger
one of my episodes.
You can catch
more flies with honey
works even better.
The striped shadows of the venetian blinds
come now from the sun, not the street light.
Why did the alarm clock ring
before I could forget last night?
I have nowhere to stay in this city,
no money to pay for a room.
There are so many beds, though,
where I could share my warmth,
and it wouldn’t cost the occupant
Politicians parade down Fifth Avenue,
passing stores where only those
who own the politicians
can buy the useless merchandise.
Go elect yourselves!
I watch in our tangle
the curve of your shoulder
and one eye watches me.
They sit across from each other,
eating their doughnuts in silence.
When their eyes meet, they are embarrassed
and do not know why.
You’ve flown to warm countries
from the frozen streets, my heart
in your grasp. You float in warm waters
while I walk the white fields, aspirations
buried till the spring.
Watching a wolf in the woods
in the Bronx, watching me
in the zoo in the Bronx.
It’s easy to live in benign captivity,
sleeping, chewing the meat they throw
as we both know.