Upon such silent feet,
She seemed a dream:
I offered her no seat.
But when she stirred
To part the door and leave, I heard
And ran to call her back.
By then she was an incorporeal dream
Lost in the night; the gleam
Of her lamp-flame, on the road far ahead
A mirage blood-red.
Young men stand on street corners,
their clothes expensive, their cars impractical, wildly
colored, and they will do anything but
put a piece
of another piece
in a certain place.
—Toi Derricotte, from “Whitman, Come Again to the Cities”
(This shot is from “Visitors,” a new, ongoing series of photographs taken on the Boston subway.)
Over the half-finished houses
night comes. The builders
stand on the roof. It is
quiet after the hammers,
the pulleys hang slack.
Giants, the roofwalkers,
on a listing deck, the wave
of darkness about to break
on their heads. The sky
is a torn sail where figures
pass magnified, shadows
on a burning deck.
—Adrienne Rich, from “The Roofwalker”
WHITE, WHITE COLLARS
We work in this building and we are hideous
in the fluorescent light, you know our clothes
woke up this morning and swallowed us like jewels
and ride up and down the elevators, filled with us,
turning and returning like the spray of light that goes
around dance-halls among the dancing fools.
My office smells like a theory, but here one weeps
to see the goodness of the world laid bare
and rising with the government on its lips,
the alphabet congealing in the air
around our heads. But in my belly’s flames
someone is dancing, calling me by many names
that are secret and filled with light and rise
and break, and I see my previous lives.
—Denis Johnson, The Incognito Lounge
(This photograph is from Visitors, an ongoing series of street photography taken on Boston’s mass transit.)
Poverty is what happens at the end of any story, including this one,
When there are too many stories.
When you can believe in all of them, & so believe in none;
When one condition is as good as any other.
—Larry Levis, from “Elegy with a Thimbleful of Water in the Cage“
Here in the electric dusk your naked lover
tips the glass high and the ice cubes fall against her teeth.
It’s beautiful Susan, her hair sticky with gin,
Our Lady of Wet Glass-Rings on the Album Cover,
streaming with hatred in the heat
as the record falls and the snake-band chords begin
to break like terrible news from the Rolling Stones,
and such a last light—full of spheres and zones.
—Denis Johnson, from “Heat,” in The Incognito Lounge and Other Poems
Ocean which I pushed up
with my fingers so I could touch
the orange sand below
and white mountain
which is not white but for getting
caught in the cold
Stay here where it is warm
and where the sun shines, for later
celestial garlands of dead light
will draw you into the cold for sure
—Joshua Beckman, from The Inside of an Apple (Wave Books, 2013)
(A post more personal than usual for me. Dedicated to my family.)
See on the canals
Those vessels sleeping.
Their mood is adventurous;
It’s to satisfy
Your slightest desire
That they come from the ends of the earth.
— The setting suns
Adorn the fields,
The canals, the whole city,
With hyacinth and gold;
The world falls asleep
In a warm glow of light.
—Charles Baudelaire, from “Invitation to the Voyage” in Flowers of Evil
Day after day, along with his placid
automobiles, that well-groomed
sallow young man had been waiting for
me, as in the cheerful, unchanging
weather of a billboard—pacing
the tiles, patting his tie, knotting, un-
knotting the façade of his smile
while staring out the window.
He was so bad at the job
he reminded me of myself
the summer I failed
at selling Time and Life in New Jersey.
—Jonathan Holden, from “Car Showroom”