the age of the innerview dawns and the need
to be first is muted by a
multitude of passings/desire honed so sharp
the edges bleed, lips and hands
assume a silent patience/at rest as a savage
brilliance is reborn in this ancient ravaged griot
who am i? what am i? are no longer important questions.
knowing that i am is finally enough
like discovering dessert is delicious following a disastrous
meal, a sweetness that reawakens
the palate, or finding that one’s chalice is unexpectedly
filled with elixir of euphoria
and i stumble happily into the cornucopia, arms
outstretched, upturned, drunk
my heart athrum, bones full samba. the night
blesses me with his constellations
baptizes me with his deathless autumnal chill
and i invade the moody indigo
full-throated and singing
Bursting out of ourselves,
rush of coat and elbow,
we rode over, over
Jimmy Damour, standing guard in the dawn —
the door yanked from its socket.
We rode as though on horseback
in the direction of our wanting.
They say you lay in a sleep of bronze
on the white linoleum,
while we shopped for TVs.
You a stone in the current of us.
Like water, indifferent, serpentine,
we carved the earth,
with our urgent business.
They say you shielded a pregnant woman
with your body,
that beneath the weight of us
she heard the grinding of her own teeth.
I’d like to say that because of you, Jimmy,
we make do with less.
It would suit my miserly heart
to cut, extract, leave out, whittle
down to the essential quart
of milk and sack of beans
to sit hearthside with this set of hands,
(for Sonia Nieto)
In Brooklyn, the mice were crazy
with courage, bony gray pickpockets
snatching crumbs from plates
at the table. The roaches
panicked in spirals on the floor,
or weaved down walls
for the sanctuary of cracked paint.
No heat, so the oven door drooped open
like an immigrant’s surprise.
Sonia’s mother was mute in English,
mouth chapped and coughing
without words to yell for heat.
But the neighbors spoke of Borofels:
Tell Borofels, and mice shrivel in traps,
roaches kick in poisoned heaps,
steam pipes bang so loud
that windows open in winter.
Sonia and her mother sailed
on a subway train rocking like a ship
desperate for light, then rose
into an untranslated territory
of Brooklyn. So Sonia translated:
“Where is Borofels?”
No one knew;
I have been practicing the first two
lines of a poem by Chung Ling:
“I make fast my white barge
to the bank of the brimming stream.”
One of my students wrote it out for me
phonetically. I want to say these lines
to the old Chines guys I swim
with every afternoon at the Y.
I think they would enjoy it. I think
they would like me. Today there is
no one in the pool but us, and we
are all hanging onto the sides.
I point to the placid water and recite.
They are stunned, and then Mr. Chu
starts to weep. His friends help him
out. They disappear through the blue
door. Later there is a note on my locker,
written on a paper towel,