It’s been a long time. It’s been a long time and so it takes some getting used to. Like a patient diagnosed with anemia who starts her regimen of iron and has to get used to what it’s like to be able to walk around without feeling like her chest is going to rip open and her legs disintegrate beneath her. And after the initial nervous distrust of this power has passed, then she starts running down the block and taking stairs two at a time. Because the thing she was pushing along without has been restored. Because all the tension that went unspent all that time has to release. Because now she has the strength, and she remembers keenly what it was like when she didn’t. Because at least once a day she thinks, what if it goes away again? And then she breaks into a sprint.
Archive for May, 2011
Things I think about my neighbors:
The couple upstairs is in a green-card marriage. She’s just a little too pretty, and he’s just a little too, well, stylish, if you know what I mean.
The girls across the hall are either selling drugs or prostituting themselves. So many people coming by all the time: 10:08 pm, 11:40 pm, 12:02 am, 1:06 am, 2:35 am. So much loud laughing and banging music.
The man in 202 is in that Chinese mafia, whatever you call that. He travels constantly—left March 3, returned March 6, left again March 10, not yet returned—and he wears sharp dark suits and dark glasses, and he walks like he’s taller than he is.
The lady in the garden unit is a Communist. First, she’s from Russia or Poland or one of those. Second, she puts signs in her window against the government. Third, she always wears work pants and thick shoes.
I called the Homeland Security tip line with all these facts, concrete facts with dates and times and everything, but I never saw any agents come around, and none of the neighbors got taken away. I might need to call again after further investigation.
Things the rest of the building thinks about the lady in 301:
Doesn’t she have any family?
When we say good morning, why does she freeze up her face like that? Is that her version of a neighborly smile? Why doesn’t she speak? Why does she stare? What’s in that notebook? What is she thinking?
Tags: fragment, nonfiction
You know that later there will be yelling. There will be crying. Worse, there will be silence. There will be distance and misunderstandings and talking past and talking over. There will be fighting for and fighting against. There will be not wanting to deal with it and giving up. There will be sneaking out and slamming doors. There will be misery alone and together. There will be rehashing and speculating and assuming without ever confirming. There will be wild irrationality and cold, clear reason, and you will not be able to tell the difference between the two. You know there will be all of these things in one circumstance or another, and yet—and yet—
The man runs onto the train just as the conductor is making the “Do not attempt to board” announcement, arms thrust outward to both sides to keep the doors from crushing him. He crumples into the first inward-facing seat, back and shoulders slouched so low he’s almost folded in half, legs splayed out to the irritation of the women facing him, who simultaneously cross their low-heeled feet and exhale sternly. The man does not notice. He’s trying to control his out-of-breath gulping. He’s a little soft in the face, but he doesn’t seem to be a person who gets winded just walking a flight of stairs, so he must have run dead-out from at least a block away.
The woman observing all this is facing out the window, watching the reflections acted out over the predawn backdrop of the rolling city. She ignores the buildings and focuses on the man. He’s got nothing with him, no bags or briefcase, so he’s not late for work or a plane. He’s patting at his head, doing little to calm the dark exclamations of hair spiking out at the crown. His glasses are askew, but it doesn’t seem to bother him enough to right them. His collar is popped up on the side, and his shirt as a whole seems to be slanted; either he’s off by a button or maybe half of it got untucked and pulled down somehow—she can’t see that far down in the reflection.
He’s still trying to rein himself in. His breathing is slower but still punctuated with stutters and gasps quickly clamped behind his lips. It doesn’t look like he’s crying, but he seems a little shaky. She gets the idea it’s from residual adrenaline pumping through his system. From fear or exhilaration, she can’t tell. In the dark reflection, his eyes seem dead, his mouth unbent.
If there were anything else in the world that she wanted to think about this morning, she’d think about that. But there’s not. So she keeps her mind on the man and thinks, I am going to turn and look at him. When the doors open at the next stop, I will look up and look right at him.
The train pulls into the next station. She doesn’t even realize it, but she holds her breath, and as the doors open and she turns to look, the man bolts off the train as suddenly as he’d entered. She only has time to notice that his left shoelace was coming untied and he had a slight limp. But maybe he’d always had that. She has no way to know.
[I woke up in New York City this morning. I had forgotten to pack a dictionary. Thus I did not do the Dictionary Project. What I did was something completely different. I wrote a poem. Now you have to read it. My apologies. Back to the regular program next week.]
The first time I sat here
I was 15 years old
my head full of Ginsberg and
push-pull feelings and
Half my life ago.
I have returned uncounted times
with heads full of evolving cares.
I have sat cross-legged
bag twisted around foot
on these stone benches
and written in a series of
successively more expensive notebooks.
I have run ruts on the earth
and in the sky
between these two poles.
I am a product
of neither one nor the other
of the space between.
The things I love about this city
for three days
or three months
don’t exist when
you build a life here.
I am too practical
for this town
but I am still
a 15-year-old poet
with a push-pull head
to leave it behind