The earth groaned and heaved. Shattered sounds of summer storms. North of us, the bark of distant dogs. Trees crashed around us but Gaspar went on speaking. I could no longer help him. He spoke in circles, of the sea giving up its dead and water receding. His voice was liquid and his skin, paper. He was still in his ruined tux. I had chased him this far from the museum. We were not far from the petting zoo. The great park was empty for once. The day had lost its warmth. Gaspar fed a cigarette into his tired mouth and signaled for a light. I lit him. Do you know, he asked, what it is to be intimate? I had to admit I didn’t. Sitting downwind, I coughed a dry cough. He grimaced and stamped his foot. It is when you feel safe with someone who carries the fire, he said. Someone who will never betray you, or force you to act in any way unlike yourself. There are certain men whose collapse is hidden. He tossed his cigarette into a puff of new air. The sky went orange, and then pink while I waited. Those who love us are those who rehearse nothing. When we meet it feels like an accident, but the lines are ready and everything is in place. He described her nakedness, dresses hanging in a closet, late dinners, her whiskey voice on the phone. All of these things weigh something, he said. You know their weight in the instant they are gone. He was a wound I wanted to touch.
Notes From Underground
The end is rehearsed over and over;
in a world without heaven all is farewell.
There’s a stretch of ice and snow ahead
visible from your basement window.
You sit on the big bed billing hours while
outside under the great sky grief falls like leaves.
In the crooked streets suburban women are
strung like Christmas lights on telephone poles
their heads positioned like satellite dishes
tuned to imaginary planets.
I want to sit on the roof of your old building high
above the Hudson and take one last ride with you
beyond the papery Palisades, past the tall ships
dozing in the harbor to see Lady Liberty, who looks
like she’s put on weight and donned a pair of glasses
to peer over at Jersey, squinting at the watery waves,
scribbling dissolving messages on her ten foot tablet,
raising her stony arm to you in salute.
I am only what you are
but we saw and heard so many things
we became as traveling salesmen
who lost sight of the sheep.
Some other holy man will appear to guide you
through small gardens of desire, unspeakable
practices and impossible satisfaction but you
must allow time for exhaustion.
Press more promises upon the faithful, pose
holders, yogis of the heart, it’s all yours now
this loss that is continuous will be all yours
and will only increase.
But look! Here is a woman with swell hair
and ample nose, slumped and sleepy as James Dean
suddenly awake. Hey, Bananagrams! she says
It’s a new game that combines sex and childhood
Yellow, of course, but played with repurposed
Scrabble tiles. She pulls you into a slow
hug and says, I once put a banana in my purse
because art is long and days short
and forgot about it, the banana, that is
until my girlfriend called as I exited the subway at
Grand Army Plaza, so I told her and she said
So much can go wrong with a banana in your purse.