Saturday, January 13, 2018

This is in my book, To See Who's There. I'm a descendant of immigrants, too.

Strength & Luck

       There’s no food in Ireland for Patrick Kennedy. He slogs with the other starving over the wintry road to Kingston port, hands the man his bit of coin earned working with the lordship’s horses. And up the gangway to ride the groaning bucking ship across the Irish Sea. Near to frozen in the open air he hears screams from the freezing below decks. A rotten beam has cracked, shattered, broken the back of a mother. The damn ship docks in Liverpool’s crazed harbor with sloppy, exhausted triumph.
       So Patrick’s in amid the shoving, bellowing, crying mass of countrymen lost in the dirty alleys snaking from wharf to dark city. A churchwoman offers bread and weak ale, saving him, he supposes—he’s that hungry. To sleep then, in a heap where he stumbles. The night brings him a dream of his father, still lively and digging up stones. Morning and an English pulls him by the arm back to the docks, signs him on and so he’s a stevedore—him, a boy whose life had been stallions, mares, and colts. Liverpool smothers in coal ash and fear’s roiling anger.
       When Patrick’s had enough of the place and the place has had enough of him, he scrimps the fare (gone low it has for the thousands and for the shipping lines wanting to carry them) and boards a steamship bound for New York City. At least that’s what they tell him—he can’t read the paper ticket, but he’s paid for it and takes his chances.
       The crossing is hell plain and simple, the only good being the end of it— a hundred or so poor souls with typhus ferried to hospital on Ward’s Island. His luck with him or so he thinks, he’s in the mass of them crowding down the gangplank. A cursing bastard in uniform grabs him by the neck, pushes him onto a cart. By sunrise he’s in uniform himself.  Patrick’s a private in the Union Army. Whatever the hell it is, whatever the hell the fight is about, he holds a rifle and boots too big for him are on his feet—he is in it now.
       Because Patrick Kennedy survived the potato famine, the refugee frenzy in Liverpool, the rats aboard the City of Manchester, and the American Civil War to raise a family with Catherine, née McCarthy, I am here to write these things down about my great-great grandfather, born in Dunganstown, Wexford County, Ireland, 1836, dead in Richmond County, Staten Island, New York, 1888.

Monday, December 04, 2017

One poem is brand new, one is in my book, To See Who's There

Lucien Pissaro, 1916
Time Change in Florida #2

Sapped, yes. But not finished. Not yet.
So what if I mostly live in my head?
Who says I have to be out running around
improving body income outgo technical savvy?

The dizzy awe of a Southwestern canyon at my feet,
a clean expanse of sunlit snow, a seat at a small iron table
on a terrace near a bridge spanning a shady canal, a few ducks. Yes. I do yearn,

but fuck that. The wizardry of Greek goats on the cliffs,
the exquisite calm of Prince Edward Island, conquests and seductions—
random delicious recollections lively and reasonably true live on
in Whitmanesque abundance, drifting, thundering, startling.

Come to my sunny room. We’ll lie in my ancient bed,
sing German Lieder, dance the pavane.
Come to my spacious room. Help me get this right.

The Painter, the Actor, the Piano Player
As fast as that I wake to astonishing desire.
I’d met you just once, but for them
(them the drained students trying to relax)
you are the stranger in the room,
(the room the shabby basement cafeteria in the old Juilliard building).
I can summon the flip of my belly as you stride to my table of dancers
(the room holds its breath) enfold me, kiss me (sighs)
and I refill here and now with that first taste of delicious knowing.
A phone call about a blind date who will meet me
on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art primes
me for the man who has picked such a place.
I’m early, filled with notions.
From the top I scan the city crowd, see you bound up
the proud staircase straight to me. How did you know?
Your talk’s all of a failed audition for Antonioni’s “Zabriskie Point.”
At twenty-five you’re too old, but still you buzz because the great director
has seen you now and maybe... We walk south on 5th Avenue.
As we enter Central Park at 72nd St., the next two
and a half years have begun.
You arrive thirty-five minutes late (the first time I forgive you).
I’d raced downtown to my two rooms on 14th Street from Lincoln Center,
sweaty from ten hours in dance studios, desperate to shampoo my oily itchy head. Cleaned up seconds before your knock, I undo the police lock.
Your tweed jacket white shirt curly wild red/brown hair round blue smart eyes tall skinny grace punch me in the heart so that my chest contracts.
Did I gasp?

A fast heavy rain lowered a bough of the too tall old rose bush.
One pink bloom is done for but the other holds its fat shape.
The greens outside my window quiver. My wild Florida garden
applauds the sky; thousands of leaves have had their fill. All over
is bright gray light. I’ve been working at my French writing desk
with its view like a painting. My brother and I have landed here together,
each single, each quiet.
I applaud my young men. See us painted by Chagall.
Three times in four years I stepped off the cliff to ride the currents.
While aloft I danced, bounced, sailed, dove in winds, rains, heat and cold
like I’ve not known since. Just turned eighteen, almost nineteen,
and twenty-one, I flew over and through New York City
with you and you and you. Whoosh!
Who pushed, who pulled? No matter.
My hand, your hands gripped tightly until one of us loosened, let go.
Ah, July’s fierce sun is back, but the greens no longer thirst
and will not droop for hours.


Monday, October 23, 2017

I Would Make the Worst Cable News Anchorwoman Ever.

I’d laugh, cry, splutter with confusion or outrage.
I’d probably say “Duh” a lot,
grow pale, flush, and wink at the viewers.
I’d furrow my eyebrows, raise one or both,
and my eyes would narrow, widen, round, crinkle, and tear.
You’d see shoulder shrugging, hand waving,
finger pointing, fist clenching,
slapping of palms on the news desk
and smirking, smiling, quivering, tightening, frowning lips.
And I would certainly, certainly, fail to keep my tone of voice
well-modulated, and sounding sincere.
Yes, I’d scoff, shriek, whimper, and roar.
I might play with my hair as I listened to immortal talking points.  
As I grew evermore weary, my outfits would get sloppy, my fingernails dirty, 
make-up messed and I might start throwing darts at images 
of the crooks, schmucks, and bastards running the show.
The teleprompter and I would diverge:
given words about the deficit, I’d shout “Puerto Rico!”
given blab about Reps and Dems, I’d shout, “California’s burning!”

So, what I’m trying to say is that when the non-astounding
breaking news was that a honcho somewhere exploited someone,
or a cop got off scot-free, or a maniac used his ever-more-lethal guns,
or the President lied,
I’d have to let you know how I felt.
I would be the worst cable news anchorwoman ever. Yep.