Posts Tagged ‘fervor’
I am delicate. This tough guise
comes along with the collared shirts -
briefs – jackets in mud puddles -
but it is only a performance.
Do not mistake it for the same gauge
of pressure it takes to bruise
the skin of my heart. Purple
gives way to red gives way to pink.
Even the strong language I take in
too deep because I have no wall up
between me and you. I have no wall
up but you can’t tell how transparent
I am when I have cried, when I have
asked a question, turned a door handle
so you did not have to. I want to take
care of you. I want to take care of
myself, so invisibly that you won’t notice,
then take care of you. But that is not
realistic. I know. I am sensitive,
affected by all the madness marching
around me. I cannot get away from it
some days. Some days I am eaten alive
by the bees in the hive, some days I am
the hive through which everything flows.
I carry around words like brutal and
punished in a notebook and touch the
letters when I need a reminder of
the damage that can be done, can not
be undone. Phrases yielded like
knives. I refuse to use my words
as weapons, though I could, I could
cause hurt, could leave scars. Instead
I choose to swallow, don’t let it out,
don’t let things go, there is no way
to know what the words will become
once they leave my tongue. Possibly
dandelions, possibly stinging nettles,
possibly a poisonous cup of hemlock.
I drink it all down myself instead:
then there can be no misinterpretation.
I have said you give me
I have said
though I have been collecting
and sweet, flight and contour
and semiplume feathers,
bristle and filoplume
feathers, it was you
who gave me the map,
the blueprint, for the verb
to soar, to take off
and land, to catch a ray
I have said
you take me to such peaks,
take me to the apex
I could continue
with hollow bones and unfolding
migration flying, nesting,
cracking open, a four-chambered
heart, ruby breasted flocks,
But I was raised not
in pride. I don’t know
what it’s like for others
to take credit
for my efforts,
no matter how much
my triumph was aided
by your maps, your
supple caresses, your
careful slices of leather
cut around the outlines
of my feet
for my landing.
This flight is my
And while you are calling
to me from the clifftop, yelling
claims to my own ascending
moments, the air is so clear
all I can hear
is the pulsing
You tell me, look in the mirror
all you’ll see is betrayal but the words
aren’t yours to give. The reflection
shows no bones labeled betrayal
nothing close – the only label
with B is beauty and that comes
straight from the sternum. I once
dreamed a horse, a dappled grey
on the beach in early morning golden
light, luminous, galloping, look , I say,
look a horse, coming like a click-clack
echo in a subway tunnel, that’s not a horse
you say, that’s a bird, see the wings?
The mandible, the crown, the
coverts of the wings – I thought I
knew you. Thought our realities were
concentric overlapping circles the way
we had inside jokes in the first
hour. Once you have sucked the silver
threaded foundations of me up and out
through the trepanned hole I allowed
you to drill into my forehead, where
will that leave me? Where will that
leave you? You told me we were circles,
but you are not – in fact, I am not
either, I am a sphere, an opaque crystal
ball, I can tell your fortune, read
your palm, your tea leaves, your
seven years of bad luck from that mirror
you smashed and said I did it. The betrayal
wasn’t mine. The horse will prove that,
when it is not a bird after all, it’s long
long legs leaping over sand dunes
like it’s avoiding puddles in the Village,
the tangled mess you left behind.
Unimportant, no time for that now,
here is the dappled grey, ready
and saddled, and I will
get on that high horse,
get on that wingéd high horse,
based on this piece of art, and a recent complicated situation.
(work in progress)
Immediately in the city everything is just as hard as you’ve always heard it is: the disgusting humid summers. Finding an apartment. Getting a job. Locating friends. But the subways become easy, once you get the hang of it, and Manhattan is comprehensible, once you orient yourself. Be careful not to over-orient: you will change.
Invest in an air-conditioner. August will be brutal.
Distract yourself by going to every Brooklyn roof party you can find. Ask everyone for their New York survival tips. One boy with great hair says “a solid pair of skater shoes” ‘cause they’re so durable to the constant new relationship of your feet to concrete. A German girl who’s lived here ten years says, “an expensive, fancy pair of headphones” that she puts on before she leaves the house and takes off only when she gets to where she’s going. An older woman from the West Coast says “nature shows” remind her of the earth and essential oils give her that sense memory. A young queer boy says “a day bag, a perfect day bag,” with pockets for all the survival tools you need for the city: book, notebook, pens, subway map, Manhattan map, metro card, water bottle, wallet, hand sanitizer, tissues, smokes, cell.
Search everywhere for these tools. Your search will teach you the city. Do not stop until you find them.
When the leaves start to become undone and summer’s oppression begins to unravel and the tourists leave, go to the park. Buy a skateboard or roller blades or a bike or a Frisbee. Borrow a dog. Promenade the West Village with a pretty girl, any pretty girl. Fall in love, that’ll help. Best if she knows the city better than you and can take you to her favorite Mexican restaurant, dive bar, dance club.
This is good. Keep yourself occupied. But be careful not to get too comfortable in her world: you won’t be there long. Do not assume you will get to keep anything from her, other than the memories. You are still making your own New York. Join some organizations, make some friends, make some art, take up time. There is so much to be done here.
Keep trying to figure out what you’re doing here. Once you figure out what you’re doing here, you will know how long it will take to do it, and then you’ll know when you can leave. But you won’t know until you know. And it always takes longer than you think.
By the time the first snow falls, you will have an idea of what your own New York looks like. Re-read Colson Whitehead’s The Colossus of New York and remember that it is only after your favorite Thai restaurant becomes a coffee shop that the city will begin to show you its ghost.
This is a good thing. But winter is a hard time here, and you will loose two of the four of the following: your job, your apartment, your community, or love. It is hard to hold more than two for very long in this city. Watch the New Yorkers, they have these four balls in the air constantly but rarely touch more than two at a time.
You may loose the girl. The one whose hair swirls, whose breath you feel all the way to your toes. This will hurt. That’s okay. Feel it.
The girl you want isn’t in New York anyway, the girl you want would never live in New York. She’s too tender, sensitive to the overstimulation, just like you. But you can take it, for a little while. You can learn to put the armor on, and then take it off again.
This is how New York makes you strong.
When you’ve finally given up on the trees, they will start greening again. It is time for a few more things to hop into place. Your sister will become your roommate and you will learn so much about your childhood. You will begin to watch and understand how what you take into your body effects you. You get a friend, a best friend, suddenly, an instant connection, someone you call when something big happens, someone who is usually free for beers at the pub on the weekends.
This city may exhaust you, but you will never exhaust it.
At first there was too much feeling so she
cut out her heart and fed it to a crying lion
cub. She meaning you. Yes. But the lion cub
was really her new kitten. She didn’t have
enough milk. Is that all? No, there were
other things she never had enough of:
greens, window blinds, validation. She isn’t
ready for summer to begin. She likes the way
the branches make fractal designs in shadow
on her front door. More than the sidewalk?
Yes, and she likes the sounds her shoes
make on pavement. She likes the empty
space surrounding her to be wholly without
meaning. She wants to be alone. That sounds
overly isolationist. Sounds like freedom. And
her hands? Her hands keep turning into
birds and flying away from her. Her being
you. Yes. Do you love yourself? I don’t have to
answer that. It should matter. She has two
dozen different black shoulder bags, but
none of them are the right size. She is still
searching. She buys one every week, just in
case it is the one. It should matter. She has a
diamond stud in her nose but it doesn’t
matter. She wrote ten poems yesterday but
it doesn’t matter. This is how she stays alone.
Everything is red and newspapers are printed
on the soles of shoes, the backs of hands. You
miss the point: bookcases are only
bookcases when they hold books. All of the
letters are lost and scrambled. Like the time
the pages flew from the car and got lost at the
ocean shore? Yes. Pages flying floating until
they turned into birds. What’s with the birds?
Everyone nests, then everyone leaves.
There is truth in migration. If you make it.
What else? She cannot see her hands in the
dark. They disappear under the shelter of
the moon even when the moon is lifted in a
pirouette. She meaning you. And you.
Everyone leaves. Every relationship must
end, it is the nature of us. We are
impermanent. Even stones. What else would
stones be? Immortal. Bounded. Discovered
on the backs of glaciers, in the hollow of
trees. Birds don’t need stones to nest. No, but
I do. Where are your hands now? Turned to
feathers, feathers, turned to down, stuffed
into pillows. Place your head here, carefully.
[After Richard Siken's poem 'Unfinished Duet' from his book Crush. Also inspired by Poetry Thursday's prompt to write a poem in dialogue.]