Tag Archives: manhattan

She Hates Numbers

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Columbus Park, a poem

illustration columbus park

Columbus Park

Layers, on this island the pearly nacre of creation — darkness,
light swirl for my attention. Walled around the park are giant
buildings, shades of gray and brown, windows glinting,
dark mirrors. I traveled a thousand miles to get here,

to find something, the heart of something, heaven,
earth, sore feet, my own heart. I am a dry sponge,
tramping from one street to the next, darting eyes
quick to latch on, transcend movement, freeze-frame

all in memory. The benches call out to me; I can’t refuse,
down low in Manhattan, where Chinese congregate,
playing some fast game. Like mah-johngg, like dominoes,
like poker. And a wino passes out on the bench

next to me — his mouth gapes, his teeth darkened with decay,
his tongue moving as he breathes. I am here on my bench
otherwise alone, trying to remember my divine nature.
The fact I don’t feel full of knowledge is sure evidence

I am. Nobody ever talks about how in his twenty-ninth
year, the Buddha left his wife and child in the middle of the night
without even saying goodbye. Nobody speaks of the tears
they shed next day. Buddha’s sobbing wife

is the mother of all things, and I have never known
her name. And I know without knowing I have two
souls — the one that will die with my body, the other that will
wander the world. Everything here becomes holy;

I take the wino in my arms, feeling his foul breath
grow sweet, becoming perfume of heaven. The world blooms;
I am its soul, dancing upon the knife-blade, bleeding, but not
falling. No, not falling. As I understand, so shall I be delivered.

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Scientific Method, a prose poem

illustration scientific method caviar petrossian

Scientific Method

It is raining on Fifth Avenue.  I see umbrellas in a rainbow of colors but only gray clothes, gray faces, black rain, black streets.  I wait for the sign it is safe to walk, assured God will never deceive me.  The caviar store on the corner is empty again, as usual, except for the man behind the counter.  My existence remains unproved.

I, like Descartes, come from a legal family.  I too am excused from morning duties and allowed to remain abed, contemplating theoretical problems.  This morning from my high window I saw the sun rise over the river.  Fire to light, line to plane, flames on a gray mirror — objects around me glowing.  I imagined an infinity of rulers.  I felt hope rising in me with the sun. Hope for what, exactly?

The fish eggs I buy are tiny black pearls, glued together with brine.  Bursting against the roof of my mouth, juicy exclamations of Universal Wisdom.  I imagine my soul to be something extraordinary and rare, like a flame, coursing through my body.  I exist; I think; I am free of doubt.  When I was a tender baby, with skin like fresh flower petals, who loved me enough to love my soul?  Who breathed dreams into my tiny shell ear?  Who wept over me?  Who wished me dead?

I am like any ancient geometer, my problems beg for elegant solutions.  This curve, this conic slice — where will the truest intersection lie?  A series of three dreams turns me into a timid comedian, hiding behind my garish painted mask.  I am not a soldier in uniform.  Quiet, the air is still — I can feel my heart, unscarred as yet.  It only feels as though it has been broken, that is deception, it is perfectly healthy.

I am already exhausted by so much living.  While I slept as a baby, the whispers came from someone close: I will lie to you for your health; I will mislead you for your own good; I will beat you up for your excuses, I will beat you for your carelessness; I will beat the drum of my own desires, never yours.  Now, the sun is dancing upon the sea.

Neither René nor I like to live long in the same location.  We will change our dwelling place twenty-four times in twenty years.  Think of an infinite number of points.  Across from the caviar store, an icon with a gold halo, painted on peeling white brick.

I pray to you, my silly angel.  Hoping for what, exactly?  For feelings of joy, like a drug….  The joy of watching water move, tickled from beneath by fish fins.  School has let out for summer.  The joy of heated skin as it is plunged into cool water.  Feet in wet sand, toes nibbled by fish; pinched by tiny crabs, scraped raw on rocks.  The pleasure of discovery.

My mind is unclouded and attentive.  I deduce the transition of blood into water, wine into water, wine into blood.  The firm eggs of the caviar burst in my mouth, tangy grains of hope.  Posterity will judge me kindly.

Like me, Descartes could not find leisure and quiet to write until he got away from his family.  Was it the way his father drank?  The drunkenness, the curses, will repeat every evening at sunset.  Children will scream, cry.  Children will beat themselves up for an explanation.  Hope for what, exactly?

René and I both trust thinking more than feeling.  We work hard to free ourselves from the element of probability.  Salty fish eggs, trips to the caviar store, and flare-ups of hope, repeated endlessly.

A toast to us, to our new lives.  René completes his law degree on my birthday.   Both of us will wear robes of black & purple; spread a velvet cowl upon our shoulders.  Envy, we can taste envy: who breathed such curses as we slept?  I have walked in darkness so long, I cannot bear the light of day.  I enter the labyrinth, clutching a flimsy thread.  Curiosity is blind, leads me to risk, to unexplored streets, to black fish eggs in the rain.  It is still raining on Fifth Avenue.


Filed under prose poetry