In honor of Summer Fridays (the first of which I might take today, if I can get my work done), here's a poem I wrote a few years back and which I've always been kind of proud of. Dig it. (And forgive the small type; I had to shrink the font size to make the line breaks appear correctly.)
Liberty & Fountain
Yes, we sat and stood at the curb and corner of
Liberty & Fountain, where we’d walked to and ridden buses to
from first Jamaica and earlier Astoria and before Roosevelt Island
It’s Dutch. It’s gotta be Dutch. Roosevelt / Gansevoort
Over the Queensboro Bridge from the city, whose definition grew bigger
as we moved to and from different boroughs.
Yeah, we’re at the corner of Fountain & Liberty we kept saying,
pleased with ourselves for having seen so much unseen
by our fellow hipsters, tourists all, I disdained them.
You were more forgiving.
From the sculpture park where we’d seen art and children saw toys
I studied the cartoon deer lawn statue and we discussed what
the pedestals meant, the junk embedded, the geologic strata –
then the Filipino girl ran up and climbed up and she
rode that cartoon deer with as much if not more intent
than what we’d just brought to bear on What does this piece mean?
I straightened up and thought, well
Of course that’s what it means. Deer are for riding,
So we took the Q something bus on out to where the 7 rushed and rucked
overhead, to where we stood under overpass and
stood forever waiting for the Q60. White faces dropped off
and the bus filled and we felt self-conscious
I don’t know why. I don’t know why that should be so.
But it was so even though I wished it wasn’t. Wish it weren’t.
A cop car slides suspiciously up: Y’all need to get outta here
in a gravel-rough granite-deep voice, or at least that’s how I kept saying it
to lighten the mood.
You and I both laughed but what is laughing but
making loud noises to scare off whatever’s bad out there.
The corner of Fountain & Liberty. Liberty between Fountain & Logan, really.
We kept on saying that. You kept on
laughing and I kept on making you laugh. I was trying.
I was trying to know who Rufus King was,
who had the house that was the reason for the park
where the wedding photos were being taken in Jamaica,
but I didn’t have that information in my mind. Of the information I did have
there was one item which told me I liked parks like Rufus King’s
whoever he was
parks with trees with big tall trunks and lots of rich green leaves
and benches like would not look out-of-place in Savannah.
Broad green lawns and black babies, barbecue
and a sort of blent mist, gauzy, that hung among the upper branches
and seemed a sort of benediction.
We couldn’t stay long, though. We had a plane to catch.
We had a train to catch. We caught the Q8 instead,
and headed back west toward Brooklyn, following our progress
on a bus that filled with only black faces on an MTA map
that didn’t much correlate to reality, but worked alright enough.
Growing up, the idea grows that not much correlates. Nothing’s to scale.
You said you missed John as it was getting late
at the corner of Liberty & Fountain, or more really
Liberty between Fountain & Logan. You laughed
and missed John. Or more really you missed John in between laughing.
Or you laughed in between missing John. Which is the way
I’m beginning to believe life & living just are.
When the Q12 did finally come you were cold, and you cursed air-conditioning.
I agreed. The bus filled up with black faces and you were cold
and hungry. I pressed up against you and once sat forward
You pulled me back and said stay there.
I stayed there.
That bus ride was by far the longest, and when we made Prospect Park
it was as if we’d been in the hinterlands, East New York &
Woodside & Ozone Park, Tibet to Kathmandu, &
that girl you worked with you told me about with the tattoo of an ampersand.
The park opened up like the mouth of a whale made of forest.
We passed its cold marble teeth gleaming dully in the half-moon
The moon in the arms of the sun
and were inside this gigantic green thing, breathing.
You and I were breathing and so was the park and
so was the lake with the lights that brought to my mind
Lake Hamilton in Arkansas, and college nights spent in the dark
on the lake with boats moored and cold beer,
the boats tied together and the lights across the lake
with the engines off and the sound of water, some slipping naked into the dark water,
and so was the bullfrog that was in the lake,
he was breathing too.
We walked along the paths of the park, lit by lovely lamplight
and talked and I told you to breathe in the riot of greenery.
You did so and I did so, us both breathing like a couple
of bullfrogs, struck stupid by art.
The rushes in the lake were six feet high if they were an inch.
And nothing got us.
When we left the park, the townhouses were lit by lamplight or candlelight.
Let’s say the latter.
They were three or four stories tall and for all
I knew this was Paris. Some magic come down from
the heavens to live on Earth. The air perfumed, permeated
with June, finally, in this year of too-long winter
and overmuch rain. But overmuch rain makes the greenery grow
thick & pungent, and that is heavy worth it.
The breathing-in bears out that this is heavy worth it,
regardless of the misting-up and the missing.
For there’s the laughing at Liberty & Fountain, near Logan,
and all of the cupcakes and all of the barbecue and the beer,
all of it, tired legs in the morning and maybe missing, too,
but deep sweet sleep before and summer hours again next Friday.