After trimming a broad spotted flag
After some debate and delay
After checking technique and cross-checking
After taking scissors to the failing leaf
Of my plastic-potted fig
Watching the milk of the branch pearl up
After watching the plant pull its pus back in
And continue living
I walked in Central Park
There were blue paths and dogs
Bikes and city smell and
Grass. I touched the elm labeled elm
And the oak labeled oak. I imagined
sticking a pin into one of my frail branches
and how the fig would slump and realized
I never knew an elm was an elm.
Suddenly each plant was a plant.
They all had leaves to dust and
low branches maybe failing and
morning light and waterings.
Yesterday while watering the little palm
I spotted a broken stalk
Wove it up with the hundred other stalks
And checked on it this morning.
And here, everything trampled.
What a feat to lift up a garden.
What alchemy to grow a park
And what divinity that the world started green
that it knew already how to live
and already what to let die.
It was rain today
a sick sort
meant for places with soil hungry for it
flipping drops in loving tandem
ramming headfirst into sidewalk
dead drops dribbling
to the grate backbroken
in the subway
I stood on a street corner
23rd and 7th
I did not have the light
and I was in nothing but rain
I saw through the rain a boy
turned upward to the sky
in the first
(des collines wrist to tip
la campagne vollonée) but
the hand shows its muscled shape
fingers close themselves
if not colline then jointed city
Michelangelo did not paint the upturned palm of God
his hands were like city hands
I don’t know
if he was feeling for rain
could not believe his hands
for piano hammers
he held himself
for the felted pounding
he could feel his own vibration
he loved the rain
the rain that hisses like this rain
heard it shrieking
offered to it a place of landing
between the holding
and the letting
Because of the wind or the time— I know nothing about flowers—
the entire valley smells like something growing. I
have a terrible sense of smell. But
I park and roll down the windows.
My dog sits up and lays down.
It is such a big smell.
Like how mountains have shadows.
I think of everyone I could ask about what the smell is
and if they are knowledgeably smelling the smell.
I make intelligent hypotheses— Sagebrush. Gingko.
I think about writing a poem
and wait for someone to tell me it is a miracle
or a pattern
or something rotting in my car and
no one comes
no one tells me what smell the smell is
or if I should like it anyways
and I drive home
earthy, human, and still.
I saw orange trees in February and they were orange. Juice
rolled down my arms and barely fell to those two sour glasses.
In the morning I found tangerines. The tangerines–
I fell in love with Los Angeles quickly. Like how you smell a smell
like home and suddenly morph to native form and everything
starts to slowly burn. Los Angeles took me,
Reached her heavy elbows up and outward through the gridlock
sent me down to shining water, hazed out every thought I had
of frozen Boston, tired winter —
Barely breathing, whispered names like numbers chanting slowly
one-oh-one-to-two-to-four-oh-five and on–
how I loved the words that stopped the fire –mercy!– that the fire didn’t jump.
She’s a weak conglomeration but oh that simple, eerie twinkle
blinks in cocky affirmation:
Oh hazily singing, oh hazily bright.
That I should double-cross my brick-lain Boston. That I
should leave the rotaries behind and stumble forward to this longing
oh, that I should find a colder, sweeter ocean.
Oh, oh. Los Angeles, you’ve got terrible messes. Seeping detritus. Hot
blues to make me drink like lemonade like chlorine dripping but I
cannot hate the sun for how she holds you. She holds you
so damn closely, curves her fingers under wide-brimmed coast, she
pulls you slowly to the valley, blooms you, shakes you
bleaches out your skin and tans you. Let me light a dirty fire.
I’ll put you out with thumb and finger.
His hand is lined as wood and about as hard. What doesn’t go to the city goes to the coast
and what goes to the coast stays there to rot. His hands splintered first, then the rest of his body
cracked. He tells me he speaks at me he throws words at my face
Consider all the terrible things he said consider all the terrible things. His eyes
are old money. I stand here on seam of the city the
dirt that presses right up to the water, spills over. I cannot tell anyone
I cannot tell anyone what I have heard. Boats were once here. All of a sudden I want to swim out
make my body a barge link my foot to a tugboat that sick I’d let it drag me
but I am not a barge and that is a terrible thing. And I can carry nothing and that is a terrible thing
and I’d drown trying. He slumps as if belonging on a cardboard box but indeed he doesn’t.
I hear the creep of the weeds in this city I hear them rooting those
self-starters feeding like mad. I want to break open the asphalt
but I like the asphalt and that is
I pull closer to myself. Home’s too round a word now. Round like dens my hands
dig into. Like pockets where fingers at my gut take inventory: Quarter, Penny, Paperclip. Quarter, Penny, Paperclip.
This city is known for its God but I don’t know those people and that is a terrible thing.
Terrible thing is the skyline is sharp where you can see it. He
knows the God of this city was basically born into it. He shields a terrible light with that hand again and
regards my terrible body. Quarter. Penny. Paperclip. I run—
the roads are broken the trees destroy in their dying the docks are empty and in emptiness leaning
I take myself to dirty water Paperclip I throw Quarter Penny
PaperclipPaperclip and my jacket shakes dirty water heavy jacket and my shirt. And my shoes and
my socks and here I am crying
I am crying. No one is coming and that is terrible. No one is coming. I am cold and that is terrible. I am blue
and green so too my shoes and my shirt and they all shake the water and hat and jeans I spread my body
wide into the dock. I knock my body into the dock. My elbows and my knees I dig into the dock.
It splinters me.
Wind, fragile and joyous, slices through the belfry of the school
to shift heavy snow into ripples like ridged fields behind.
Charlie’s having a cigarette. I haven’t yet found his blush to be
from cold or alcohol. He loves Philippa, the florist.
Must be Pip who puts the rose in his face. They are as kind
as they are insulting, and they’ll be married sarcastically, tenderly in May. It’s not May now;
it’s fragile December, when the heavy first snow is scattered with thin orange sunset
and Charlie is having a cigarette at the foot of the stairs of the Black Horse,
joined by a bald man, eerily drunk, and unjacketed. He speaks with authority of gibberish.
Charlie ducks in, slides off and hangs up the cold smell of smoke on a banister. The rest are warm and smiling,
asking questions, buying rounds. Haydn has easily put Pip behind the bar;
she calls me Puppet and brings me tea. She couldn’t find the sugar,
and I decide that I’ll love her forever. The hunting officer has bought a round; he is new, and he is fair.
He talks with Ben of riding, chasing, dogs, and women. They admire each other with dirty jokes
and rolling conversation. Jemma, newly married and beautiful, leans softly toward conversation.
In a stone fireplace the fake fire nearly feels warm, and atop it the fake wreath nearly smells green.
Unpopped Christmas poppers drape out window sills and there’s a chrysanthemum, unnoticed, in a corner.
Someone tall and chilled ducks in, hugs the bunch, and begins to thaw. My Americanness flows into me,
I lean over my tea.
The carols are round, gentle, and hum in harmony with the conversation beneath them.
The pink has lifted from the snow, and now sits, distant, in the sky. No one is leaving,
and thin traces of foam dry neatly on pints. Metal Reserved tents stack on a side table,
clean and unused. One table is set with wine glasses and folded napkins,
gleaming in posterity. Charlie is patient with the bald man whose emptiness chills me,
and I’ve just caught him saying it’s the loneliness. If not for the cigarettes,
his voice might have thickened through his laugh. The sunset has dozed into purple.
Wouldn’t this be love if you had to find it?
The type that buzzes at near imperception
on each wandering decibel, the type
built from many singing quietly together.
The sky has become dark, and I can hardly spot the schoolhouse bell through the window.
The pub begins to glow from the light above the bar
and I scrawl and sip the tea
that kindles in my belly and spreads. And another carol
tumbles onto the stoop of the Black Horse
where Charlie’s gone out for a cigarette.
Every once in a while
Must sit in a room
At a subway station in a shop
Or next to a homeless man on a corner
(The one that yells at you as you pass by SO ANGRY that
Everyone is too scared to drop into his cup
For fear of reckoning for fear
Of him calling you WHITE GIRL calling you WARM IN THAT JACKET
Because HE’S NOT WORTH TALKING TO
I KNOW I DON’T DESERVE THOUGHTS he said yesterday)
How sometimes you have to just stand beside a man like that and
Think of stars
And dusty planets
How huge we are for being so rare
So absolutely incredible
This whole thing
Isn’t there a god? Shouldn’t there be?