my first new york city poem
I am making an apartment for myself
In my mind.
With all the real fine tools of architects
and eating the dinner of an
architect when I am done.
Eating the dinner of an architect
when the architect is alone.
I am stretching out in the chair
and holding my belly with both hands
and knowing I am resting.
The blue behind the curtains hums.
Worms pull out of winking muds.
A fan stirs the air. Don’t really look at the rugs,
but I notice how the fibers buzz.
I begin to sing a song.
“Lean out your window golden hair.
I heard you singing over there.
I am enchanted by the view.
I will come climbing up to you.”
You might have heard this song.
It’s been a while since I sang that song!
Last night I sat up—awake, suddenly—
realizing something about city poetry.
Poets who live in cities write
poems that look like apartment buildings
and they go on and on and on.
And poets who live in towns write more
orderly. I mean in houses. I mean the poems
themselves are shorter and sometimes they rhyme.
Often they are divided into stanzas like the floors
of a house. And you walk
downstairs or upstairs if the mood is good or sad.
I cannot speak for the haiku, yet, but now
that I am thinking about it the haiku
looks like a small and simple house.
A house with just two rooms.
Pictures blow around the house.
There is an economy, of course
the words themselves are
dense. They are smoothed over
by centuries of war. They are
like polished stones. Smooth.
I have only read these poems
in translation. But the words will hit you
like stones might hit you. And you
build a little pile with them, and then the last line
knocks it down.
So it seems haiku may evoke the design of houses
in Japan. So the poems’ shape is like
the shape of the houses where the
poets live, or the houses the poets grew up in,
if they wrote when they were young.
And maybe you also get an impression
of some other arrangement
that the poet might be dreaming about.
I had a lover who lived often on a boat.
I couldn’t tell you how he wrote,
only how softly, how melodically he spoke.
A lover whose pretty voice could
melt the hardware in my phone.
Whom I flew out here on a plane
because I thought it would make us happy.
When he arrived I was very happy,
but not attracted to him sexually.
It was as if suddenly his soul had
slipped deep beneath the surface of his skin,
and I didn’t want to touch him. Or maybe
I would have touched him, but it would have been
with a blade or a firm hand,
to pull him closer to his skin.
When I called him later in the month,
he said that he was sailing north.
I told him his lability is what scared me.
I do not really know what scared me,
But I do know where I live!
These days I’m seeing a Canadian
who always talks about his house back home
and he calls it a “cottage.”
And the “GE” makes me think of
some very large and hard rocks
which are glued together by lime,
exacting heavy toll on the ground.
Its the hard sound that the tongue makes,
as it rests for a moment against the backs of the teeth,
like a field walker rests for a moment against a rock wall.
A triangle is formed between the feet
and the wall and the torso of the shepherd
(for he is turning into a shepherd)
and the feet and the wall split the weight
the hypoteneuse, his back and belly
stretches out and rests. Or we might
assume that the shepherd rests, because this
image might feel good to us.
And the tongue brushes the back of
the teeth to cut off the vowel in “cottage”.
And there are some tough Germanic edges.
The kind that makes the words
make sounds like when a child, weighing roughly
sixty pounds, tramps over a carpet of sticks.
And my love, who has a silver band permanently
secured to the back wall of his teeth,
and for which reason blurs his “G”’s a little,
says the word to me and I think “brown and grey stone wall.
Stones stacked on top of one another
with a little lime or talc to secure them.”
I’ve heard that phrase, “you are my rock.”
We are angels.
We are light.