To her, the city smelled like formaldehyde,
preserved: a bloated corpse cracking but fighting
back. She went once, January Amtrak.
Now the rails lie rusted from the land buyout.
She dreams concrete grids lit by fluorescence
and endless steel, quaint brownstones huddled up
like penguins. Reprieve from her dailies — wheat
sagging in wind, tractor duty, grubbing
weeds — involves cosplaying urban life
while mid-kitchen, deep crimson of jarred cherries
evokes a crosswalk LED red hand.
When pop’s stroke pummels him, when Nathan’s bored
of her, she’ll fly here sparrow-winged, nest on York.
Hydrangeas now. The scent of spring is here.

Fog here thickens up like cream.
Some days you can’t even see the spires
on the jigsaw structures spiraling up the sky.
Two days ago, I got so anxious
my hands tingled and my chest felt like an oven
looking up at the stupid things.
Now, hours out of that mental cloud and into a real one,
a weatherful one,
I can’t stop staring and filling myself with stillness,
like cigarette smoke from a happy mouth,
inside a globed glass,
next to all my friends and the loves I follow.
Awash in a throb of brain peace, elusive as fog.

Laney doesn’t like Tribeca at night.
The buildings skulk, the brick ones bully,
the rainy streets stay empty like fled bar tables
where lingering half-drunk glasses taunt of laughs.
Less mirth down here among the ghosts of New
Millennium sorrow. She hears less noise
and starts her mind to panic, sees fewer lamps
and hails a cab. Texts me about her worries:
“Made it out, thank God.” She doesn’t know
what I’ve endured round Chambers and Canal,
the searing dart game with my chest as bullseye
from young American proximity anxiety.
I’ll be strong for both of us. She hates
the spookiness. I hate the phantom limb.

Them Coney Island mermaids can’t flash a set

of teeth as wide as yours. You warm as you strut

vibrato like a string section, resounding

in the walls of apartments too small to make a home.

You still do. I’ve the found the barkers and the balloons

of joy — they swim round the corners of your mouth.

Creation blooms inside your eyes and eases

to your cutting-board hands. I still love you,

the way you hang a laurel canyon wreath

around your hair in summer, creeping down

from foothills to city, guitar slung. I listen like

a child on a lap. The coffee place

remembers your smile and has a cup ready.

Simple as a star. Bright as the moon.

I am not sorry for my deep resentment

nor for the rage that lingers past last call

when the hunched mustache whistles us to scram.

Living on diner breakfasts and charcoal,

I assume the bodies of the innocent,

take shape of children rolling from brownstone

to prep school to city highrise to bed,

cough with the smokers bickering outside the hospital.

I live in tiny filth but long for purity.

 

In the wet mop

lies the largest secret.

In the crumbling tentacles of the

mop gray as old maid hair

resides the breath of struggle,

like when I close my eyes to imagine the train

rushing air across my face is really ocean swing,

me genuflecting at the blue of Patmos,

one day planting my feet as mingling seeds.

 

The city is the land of colored jackets,

stark dreamcoats of a world within a word.

One syllable erupts with light. Bright. Lucid.

To the folks back north, I wear a home of neon

and perpetual glee — scores removed from the cracked

pavement that offers itself as shelter

and flat decor. Blood engines powering,

decay rampant as breathing, bold in each

dark crater puddling.

 

Life ends before death,

before the tubes and blinking machines.

Life quits on you

as withering household plants,

first wilting then drying then finally dropping

as a boxer in the fifth, a madman high

on a ledge, a flattened score. Some will

enjoy the colors of the coats. I lip

and sneer, salting the earth with quiet sin.

From here high on a floating barge,

you can smell God

deposited in stone faces and shredded billboards.

 

The bridge hangs like a net, backdropping

a series of train exchanges, connecting

work and sleep in a tangle of city air.

My bag slung as a child, like yours,

shoes tight and shaved face —

melting into morning ether again.

 

Beyond this elevated rock thick in a.m. chaos,

all people are commuters,

transitory ghosts in a spawn of skyscrapers

waiting out the traffic. They lunge toward routine

and shriek at delays. Their brown soles rust.

And all aboard remain impermanent.

I live as a fake monk,

stretching days as taffy and nights as film cels.

Blending plans with pure sabotage,

feasting upon the threat of possibility,

I prowl in black hallways and devour

the pale pastels of mass transit.

 

 

Escape autonomous like an inward balloon

rising inside the self. A bleached bouquet

of velvet na-nas from ’60s pop, and

the sleek joys of new friendship, dark as pu’erh.

Some phrases sound gorgeous — others are flat

notes in a sagging scale of cacophony.

 

 

When sparkling myrtle at last deposits in my eyes

and I take up home where I can see the stars,

there will be peace and victory. The greens

will be pure earth. The windows waxed.

Until, the moon remains a cracked promise,

and harmony lingers just out of key.