Other People’s Windows

Central Park is closed,
but I stand inside
it’s gates,
holding my little dogs
as they sniff
and scratch
and pee.
A rat rounds the garbage can,
squeaking,
at the sound of a carriage,
hooves weary under
the weight of sneakers
and foreign tongues.
Street lamps leak
white ghosts
onto the sidewalk that turns
in Olmsted curves,
and light spills from
other people’s windows.
I see their shadows,
turning in salons of
gold and red,
silent,
and baroque,
like reveries
of a time that
once sipped
pleasure.

Photo by:
Sean Witzke

Jane Says

This city’s madness,
a tapestry of too much of it all.
There’s always someone or something
that drives a steak into my personal space:
an angry man in a black car honking;
a family walking four abreast on the sidewalk, slowly;
my neighbor vacuuming the concrete on her patio;
the lot across from me a construction zone of cats, gravel and a “dust control” truck.
Cement and traffic.
People and skyscrapers.
I just want to get away from it.
And yet I have lived in the country
Where the absence of annoyance
is a peaceable kingdom
that can be dulling,
like a drill to my temple,
boring,
until I’m lobotomized and desensitized.
Because it’s easier to be average
than to step outside.
So never mind,
this wayward thought
of leaving my jungle behind.
I think I’ll stay.

*

But if I left where should I go?
To the lands south of here, perhaps.
The broad avenues and cobblestone quarters of Buenos Aires,
where I’d amble among the vendors offering silver jewelry and cups of perfumed wine.
Or maybe to the ocean,
where I’d stand at the edge of a Caribbean beach washing my toes, the sun heavy on my shoulders.
My little dogs would wrestle nearby,
their fur faded and salty, littered with sand.
Scratching, always itchy.
But would I be satisfied?
I don’t know,
for I’m not sure what I’m looking for,
aside from these abstract concepts of happiness, knowledge, acceptance
and love.
I have thought of evaporating,
to escape the disappointment
of these things I don’t have,
or that I’ve lost.

*

I seek an authentic life,
in its most abstract sense,
like devouring an apple to its core and swallowing the seeds.
If I only eat the flesh,
I will only half know the apple.
Why eat around the hard and bitter parts?
The problem isn’t my city,
nor is another place the solution.
That’s the painful part,
which causes me to swell
with tears.
And yet, I can’t help but wonder,
if starting over is such a terrible thing.
Perhaps it’s out there after all,
my home.
my family,
myself.
I can’t know the answer.
I can only hope.

Things That Go Missing

Once someone gave me advice.
If I lend someone a thing,
I must never expect it back,
so I should only give what I can do without.
If they return it, it will be a gift.

Wisdom, I thought.

Yet, it does not apply to stealing.
For if someone takes a thing,
I have a right to expect it back,
to hunt it down to the ends of the Earth
and to seek vengeance upon he who took it.

I think here of my little dog.

When she went missing,
I thought the Universe stole her.
The quantum ray read,
“Frankie is here. Frankie is not here.”
Her electrons spilled through two slits.
In one world she was with me,
and in the other she was no more,
like my parents who have gone too.

I was angry; I had been mistaken.

The Universe did not steal her,
it merely borrowed her.
To pet, I presume,
because she is so cute
and has a good heart.

After the wind had ruffled her hair,
and the skies had looked down upon her glowingly,
and the sun washed its rays in her golden fur,
the Universe returned her to me,
stinking of garbage but otherwise unharmed.

A gift indeed.

Apathy of Flowers

You sip your rose
as pink petals swirl around you,
ripped from the branches
of a cherry tree by a solar wind
that tears through the streets.
You text your tattooed friend
to meet you at the outdoor cafe
when the wind tips your glass
with its oily claws,
leaving sticky flowers on your lap.
You laugh and order another.
You’re right to enjoy this moment of summertime in springtime.
Or are you?
Behind you, the wind gathers strength,
and the flowers turn in an eddy at the intersection,
pummeling the windshield of a convertible that rounds the corner, swarming a woman as she crosses the street.
This is how the end begins,
with a warm day, an unnatural wind, and the flight of flowers.
There is nothing to do about it,
except to say, “oh well” to your apathy.

Today’s Star

Who were we to each other
once upon a time,
long before we sat in this circle
on the grass talking of
sunshine and wine?
Perhaps we looked
upward to a star
named Trappist
and settled upon our drums,
striking the snares with precision
to tell the skies
we’d been here before
and would be here again,
in this place
and those to come.
Hold onto your memory,
you whose smile is strained,
eyes haunted,
for I see what you do.
This storied day
is the one that
always repeats.

Hearts and Skulls

Move over.
I’m bones that must Exit here
to be at my desk by 8:58 A.M.
Get out of my way.
I no longer have a pulse,
but I do have a memory one,
faded as it is,
like a pair of watercolor jeans.
I’m pushing you.
Don’t you feel my hand?
You look through me, as if I don’t exist.
Is any of this real?
Oh my God.
I’m but a skeleton sucking air,
answering to the whim of my masters –
Money,
and Metrocards.
This is my stop.

Her Half-Life


She’s a nice person.
She has a common face.
Her lips are painted magnolia, cheeks rouged pink.
Her hair is pulled back, dyed straw blonde and blown straight.
A smile is affixed to her face, quaking as if drawn by a child’s finger.
She looks towards the door of the subway car, her mask tight.
She’s resentful because she’s had no voice.
She was whistled at when she was young and ignored now that she’s old.
She’s been yelled at by men for driving too aggressively and honked at for going too slow.
Her boss eats the lunch his wife packed and interrupts her to say she should use fewer words.
Her friends make recriminations over the mommy at soccer practice who brought cupcakes instead of healthy snacks.
Her own kids don’t know who she really is.
Her husband treats her like furniture.
And she can’t stand it.
But what is she to do?
She doesn’t want to be a Bitch or Slut.
She’s a Mother.
She’s a nice person.
She clutches her black purse and jacket,
staring into space,
her lips a slash of purple skin.

The Wrong Kind of Magic


I happened upon the wrong kind of magic.

The key was lost in the movements;
a sequence designed to be impossible to master
unless you sacrifice all to become asetic, turn your dreaded hair into knots and paint your face gold.

Even then, the magic may not work.

You need many – thousands even – moving at the same time with equal bodily freedoms: twisting and folding, rising like Lazarus from backbends, walking as if crabs and pounding the ground like snakes turned to staffs.

All together. All at the same time.

Therein lie the trap, the false promise that was bestowed upon me by many teachers, a spoonful at a time, and all these years later I am still a baby in a bib eating mashed peas.

But what of this magic?

It was whispered in a dream that it opens the door to a larger question, which gives rise to a spectrum of other worlds, where chasing the answer to who I am, and why am I here has no end, only more doors.

And dare I open these doors?

I fear what is behind them, for I know the terror of the unknown, of ancient subway systems turned underground highways filled with small men in flying capsules and black eyes, where I am a stranger with my yellow hair and milk fed bones.

Neanderthals cannot navigate such a place.

Not alone.

Not with the wrong kind of magic.

To a Friend: The Button and the Cliff

When losing a button
becomes the end of the world,
and you think this is as far as you can go,
you’ve reached your edge,
the limit of what a human can endure.

You think of the struggle:
waiting in traffic at the tunnel,
the man who flips you off,
on a street cleaning day
that leaves your car blocked in
so that you can’t get home
so you write a note
saying how pissed you are
that goes unanswered.

Is this worth it?
Does any of it matter?
Is anyone listening?

You close your lids
and stare into the emptiness
where you watch your breath
move in and out
and label your thoughts
past, present and future,
and soon you see a splotch of purple
that turns into a palisade with a
darkened sky and dancing trees,
but it has nothing to say to you.

Another dead end,
which makes you think that this too
means nothing.

So you return your attention to the present,
which is in the room where you are sitting,
and you can hear the voices around you,
and the music playing softly;
you can feel the breath and the sweat,
and the warmth of lights on your skin
and the floors touching your thighs.

These are just atoms, you think,
made of nothing until they are labeled,
but they do matter,
to you.

So you get up,
and do it all over again.