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While sitting on a bench at the Brooklyn Promenade. 

The Galleons

Because I am reading Frank O’Hara
while sitting on a bench at the Brooklyn Promenade
 

I am aware it is 10:30 in New York
on a Tuesday morning

the way O’Hara was always aware
of what day and hour and season were in front of him

It is 12:20 in New York a Friday
he wrote almost sixty years ago on a July moment

that must have been like the one I am having now
the summer hour blossoming

at the promenades by the rivers and in the parks
and in the quiet aisles of the city
 

when everyone who should be at work
is at work and the trees are meditating

on how muggy it will be today
and the fleets of strollers are out in the sunshine

expanse of the morning
the strollers that are like galleons

carrying their beautiful gold cargo
being pushed by women whose names once graced

the actual galleons Rosario
Margarita Magdalena along with other names

Essie Maja from places that history has patronized
like O’Hara going into the bank

for money or the bookstore to buy
an ugly
NEW WORLD WRITING to see what

the poets / in Ghana are doing these days
or the liquor store for liquor

or the tobacconist for tobacco
and sitting at the Brooklyn Promenade I haven’t looked

at the news to see who now has died
though my fingers keep touching the phone’s face

to find out that when it is 10:30 in the morning
in New York it is 11:30 in the night

in Manila and it is 4:30 in the afternoon in Lagos
and in Warsaw and it is 9:30

in the morning in Guatemala City
where it is also Tuesday and where it is also summer.

 

– Rick Barot

 

 

 

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From Rilke’s Ninth Elegy –

 

But because truly being here is so much; because

    everything here

apparently needs us, this fleeting world, which in

    some strange way

keeps calling to us. Us, the most fleeting of all,.

Once for each thing. Just once; no more. And we too,

Just once. And never again…

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Calisthenics. For a Poet.

Micro poetry — the delicious challenge being to create an entire world, or conjure just a single moment in time, in as few words as possible. It’s akin to calisthenics for the poet, the closest I’ll get to a gym.At Rest

Placed atop the bed sheet,
inert,
his lovely soulful hands,
mapped in deep indigo veins,
the long expressive fingers,
this,
this was where his humanness
would reside the longest.

crumpled paper

I Want Those Words

It’s one of those nights. Those nights when a poem I am struggling to write is just out of reach. The frustration lies in sensing its potential, the piece it might become, if I can only find the exact words. Through a series of drafts I look for the words.

And wrote this meanwhile to try and express how it feels…

 

I Want Those Words

Sometimes the words are not enough not nearly
enough and the language stalls right there in front of me
like a runner,
gasping and giving up. If only I could
tease out another alphabet that would carry in it what
I yearn to say, struggle to say about the way the nurse
dismissed her cavalierly that day in mid-sentence
as if she didn’t exist,
my mom.

Not the road-weary dog-eared chewed-up
chewed-over words. Not the tried, true, tired ones.
Other words, so much better, pitch perfect words,
incandescent spellbinders that strung together
make the reader nod her head and lit from within
with that magical moment of understanding, say:
Yes that’s right, I know now.
I want those words.

The ones behind invisible iron curtains and years of
Catholic school and Catholic guilt and my own fear.
The ones I cannot summon to describe meeting him that day,
how even the way he walked toward me told me everything.
The ones muscular enough to tease out,
commandeer the most elusive of feelings.
I want those words.

The words I don’t know. The ones I don’t even know
I don’t know.
The words just out of reach. The finest words.
The sublime.
I want those words.

subway

Poetry Waits

Poetry waits patiently for the poet
as the molten glass
awaits the artist,
the microphone the singer.
the expectant groom, his bride.

Waits
for the moment the woman decides to leave
and the man does nothing to stop her.
The moment the bus driver accelerates
rather than wait for the runner,
for the subway doors to slam shut a second too soon.

Biding time,
watchful for the seemingly insignificant,
smallest movements
when our lives turns on a dime,
cocking its ear for the words that go unspoken,
only then setting to work,
preparing to speak volumes.

bride

Clearing away the detritus…

Among my favorite poets writing today: Tony Hoagland. Few do it better. Who else could unearth a parallel between a blossoming dogwood and a bride ripping off her dress? He inspires us all to dig down a little deeper, to not be complacent. And asks us to pay attention to the things that truly matter after we clear away all the detritus.

 

A Color of the Sky

 

Windy today and I feel less than brilliant,

driving over the hills from work.

There are the dark parts on the road

when you pass through clumps of wood

and the bright spots where you have a view of the ocean,

but that doesn’t make the road an allegory.

 

I should call Marie and apologize

for being so boring at dinner last night,

but can I really promise not to be that way again?

And anyway, I’d rather watch the trees, tossing

in what certainly looks like sexual arousal.

 

Otherwise it’s spring, and everything looks frail;

the sky is baby blue, and the just-unfurling leaves

are full of infant chlorophyll,

the very tint of inexperience.

 

Last summer’s song is making a comeback on the radio,

and on the highway overpass,

the only metaphysical vandal in America has written

MEMORY LOVES TIME

in big black spraypaint letters,

which makes us wonder if Time loves Memory back.

 

Last night I dreamed of X again.

She’s like a stain on my subconscious sheets.

Years ago she penetrated me

but though I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed,

I never got her out,

but now I’m glad.

 

What I thought was an end turned out to be a middle.

What I thought was a brick wall turned out to be a tunnel.

What I thought was an injustice

turned out to be a color of the sky.

 

Outside the youth center, between the liquor store

and the police station,

a little dogwood tree is losing its mind;

overflowing with blossomfoam,

like a sudsy mug of beer;

like a bride ripping off her clothes,

 

dropping snow white petals to the ground in clouds,

 

so Nature’s wastefulness seems quietly obscene.

It’s been doing that all week:

making beauty,

and throwing it away,

and making more.

lanterns

Bread Crumbs

Writers are natural allies.

We patrol the same landscape.

We know the three AM grope for the right word.

 

We try not to wake anyone.

We stare at a comma. Just stare.

We wrestle with line breaks.

Semi-colons mystify us all.

 

There is fascination in miniscule detail.

There is a perfect title. A perfect modifier.

If only we can find it.

 

Our thesauruses are well thumbed.

We concern ourselves with cadence, clauses.

Care deeply about the present perfect tense

versus the past perfect.

 

We are entranced by detail, minutia.

We know the weight it must carry.

The girl’s hair down, or should it be a braid?

Her shoes – navy blue. Or better, yes -

Royal blue.

Was it raining or threatening rain.

Did she say the word goodbye or whisper it after.

Was the door left ajar on purpose.

 

Out of all this steely-eyed focus

Nothing is assured.

Recognition, hard won.

What do writers, poets, actually do?

Rebuke in the tone.

 

We creep into bed in the wee hours

Still grappling with the last line.

Wondering if we came even close.

 

But on those solitary singular nights

When we may get it right

We dare to join the pantheon before us

Who persisted in the dim light

For what so often seems out of reach,

Leaving bread crumbs behind for others

Should they find themselves

Suddenly

Astonishingly

Lost.

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The Cost

Yes, painful, so very often
to have fewer filters than most.
To be wide awake to the hurt in the world.
I look across at the driver next to me at the stop light
and wonder if he is loved.
It is involuntary. Born in some. Inescapable.
Manifest.
This breathing in the pain of others. Then carrying it.
Never failing to notice the one lonely person in the room,
the resigned among us.
Drawn to what is broken, all that needs tending.
Powerless to look away.
And always more to see.

But I pay the cost.
Would pay it twice in this life of mine
for what it gives in return,
this unseen affliction.

See me here.
Still standing,
bearing scars under my clothes,
yet laughter rises easily in me.
Still able to take a child’s delight
in an unexpected gift,
a fresh snowfall,
a baby returning my smile.

See me here.
I am still standing.
And so terribly vulnerable to joy.