Manhattan Lunch Hour

It is summer and the city is in heat. Snapshots of passing faces, staring up from the tedium of matter. Everyone has a texture; many have a story. Girl with tattoo on shoulder walking two dogs — one light brown, short hair, the other black and fluffy. Unshaven man, about 40, turns to look at her ass. His denim jacket is a shell on his wasted body. A punk teen sits against a building, massaging her boyfriend’s shoulders. His hair is dyed, his long legs jut into the path of pedestrians, ending in orange platform shoes. They are sheepishly enjoying being a spectacle. Spare change, sir? Black dredlocked rasta with shopping bags, palms forward, showing veined forearms. Faraway look. Bodies blur into a sea of thought. There are many lonely trajectories, and ample clusters of blind affiliation. Ambulatory pods of muscle and bone. I am one.

DNA, string of replication, the experience squeezes itself from one node to the next, compounding, complexifying, perpetuating itself. Like sap flowing, like crystals growing. I think of it and moan.


It is easy,
in the season of renewal,
to take a greening twig for a sign
that life is not a losing

That we aren’t just
a pinch of food
hanging uneaten on the lip of God,

past the hemline,
flesh leaps in dolphin curves,
tracing warm trajectories
beneath synthetic seas.

A swish, a dimple,
Spring’s message is simple:
Bifurcate and beat the curve

Which is why
the oldest phylum tree
still blossoms
in the shadow of cities.

Report from Cutler, Maine, October 1997

Salt shore,
where the seaweed grows,
and the tide kneads life

Evening gulls’
squawking fades and falters,
and the gulping crows
        revise their last oration.

Little mussels nestle
into curves of soft
green mud,
borrowing space
        from        some        stones.

And a lobster laughs
and a cormorant
follows his fish


City, scrape, truck.
Sick surplus.
Rush return to restless wait.
Back again in nexus.

This desert, flesh
rehearsing sermons,
pockmarked shield of mirrors.

Inside, the roaring
tide is pounding, pulling,
pounding at the future.
Remember something
calming, mussels,

fire escape poem

Bushman on the savanna
shaking a rock at the sky
Words like desperate fingers, dying
fumble towards him
In the midst of such horror:
“God help me, it tickles!”
Unformed, embryo,
a naive intake of breath
preceding history

There is a cat face peering
through ferns in that window
distant window seen from
someone else’s fire escape
tiny ears listening
for food-like noises
Quiet patient biology

We are waiting on fire escapes
breathing air that
is fresher at least
than the closed conditioning
of weekend offices.
It is Manhattan
and we are quietly afraid,
because our complacency
has failed to produce
even monsters.

Or, endless roaring stations
homo transiens
waiting to move again,
waiting to stop moving
Lost in private digestion
of culture’s thin milk
with the taint
of newspaper ink.
Black spots dot the platforms
gum once chewed

“Ladies and Gentlemen,
I apologize for the interruption.
I am in complete agony.
There is little you can do to help.
Thank you for your time.”

He is a black man
in a stained business suit
singing off key
and pierced by muttered commentary
Spinning in his private world
like a dizzy spider.
I can feel the date on
every coin in my pocket
as I leave the train.

Fire Island, July 1997

I left myself on the beach,
with towels and shoes, a book, lemonade
it is all behind me, back on the beach
here I am only light,
or sand, lightly salted,
and water
I am waving, and each wave
only kind of repeats

this strange salt pungence in my nostrils
too long dulled by cab coughs
and uncurbed dogs
reminds me of my breathing
and it is waving
with a cresting anticipation
of intake
and a booming exhalation

some waves find relief
on the land
and it strikes me
that the place of waves
is a place of shifting
promises between
the kingdoms of land and sea
and like me
traces the shiver
of extremes for awhile

but, lemonade,
the scent of coconut on a magazine