Blackbird an online journal of literature and the arts Spring 2008 Vol. 7 No. 1



The Window

Streak of world blurred charcoal & scarlet, the El slows,
brakes near the platform, Little Chinatown,
& there’s that window, peeling frame, screen split

to rippling raingusts. A curtain breathes
through busted glass, a glimpse of hallway
enameled green, rows of numbered doors, nothing more,

and then the train lurches forward sparkling
its electric signature above slick, hissing rails.
Soon, soon, I’ll stop there, the window’s pull

irresistible as the force of a star collapsed
to black gravity. I’ll step through the window,
take up again the key for the one room to which

I keep returning. Let me wait again there by the sill
as I wait still. Here’s the steeple of the burnt church,
beloved of vandals, the sooty block of

old law tenements where chipped tubs rise
porcelain on their feet in coldwater kitchens,
unashamed, small gray animals, the startled

array of insects we lived with.
Where are you? In the hallways, bodies passing
smell like bodies, unwashed, ginsoaked, dopesick,

the musk & salt. Where are you?
Hear with me the slant beat of that orthopedic shoe
striking pavement a few stained facades away.

With each echoing step, feel again the raw acceleration,
hope, or is it fear looming, receding?
Streaming hellmouths in the asphalt. If each of us

contains, within, humankind’s totality, each possibility
then I have been so fractured, so multiple & dazzling
stepping toward myself through the room where

the New Year’s dragon lies in its camphored sleep.
In the days I lived here, a thousand rooms
like it, making love was a way of saying yes,

I am here, these are my borders, hold me down
a little while. Make me real to myself.
One more shining
thing gone after in the night that disappeared

with morning. No substance. But I’d like you
to place your hands, cradling the neck’s swanny
arch, stand here by the copper dormer window

that’s like an endless gallery of such windows
with fire escapes burdened by doves’ insatiable
mourning. Then let it happen, the desire to be out

in the world, more than in it, wholly of it,
trammeled, broken to neoned figments.
All it takes is a few adjustments—

purple those lids, the lips as we did then,
that old mirror clouded with vague continents. We’re
ready to inhabit the sequined gowns, martini glasses

pouring their potions over the street, the milky syringes
& oh, those ravening embraces, the ravished streets
& whispered intersections. Slick back

the hair, and then the wig. I could never face anything
without the wig. Transformed, the old vaudeville desire
struts & kicks its satiny legs, the desire to be

consumed by ruined marquees, these last drifting hotels,
to be riven, served up singing, arched & prismed
from a thousand damp boulevards. Those things which shine

in the night, but what vertigo to surrender, falling
through the elaborate winged buildings they only have
in neighborhoods like this anymore, January’s bitten snow

cold about the ankles. Let me move again, a wraith,
past these windows – bridesmaids’ gowns the color
of casket linings, flammable, green

as gasoline poured from the can to flame the alley
outside the Welfare’s fluorescent offices,
police stations, the shabby public hospital’s endless

waiting rooms. How exactly pinned-to-the-wall
love was in that harsh economy, the world, the world, the world.
What I remember is the astringent sting of air.

Living on nothing but injections & vodka, a little
sugar. The self, multiple, dazzling. What I remember
are the coral husks of lobsters broken clean

through restaurant windows, steaming. Through these
windows tumble fragments, the stories, lavish
vertical fountains of opera. Dressed as death’s-heads,

crowds demonstrate against the new war
with placards before the marble stairs. Like a wraith
let me move among them, through the rooms

of this building, home of my fondest nightmares, let me
stay the hand twisting in rage, let me crush
the white & violet petals of sleep, the black sticky heart

of sleep over the delicate eyelids, over the bodies’
soft geographies, over the sorrow, the grandeur
of columns & esplanades, the soot-shouldered graces

outside the museum. Rude armfuls of orchids
fill the florist’s windows, these lunar ones
curved like music staffs above dissolving aspirins

I might bring back to the room for you. Oh phantoms.
Oh the many lives that have fountained through
my own. Soon, soon, I shall stop upon that platform

& you will meet me there, the world rosegray beyond
the scalloped tops of buildings & we shall seek
that thing which shines & doth so much torment us.  

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