Sunday, November 6, 2011

Today I Have Registered on the Retina of a Street Cabbie’s Horse

Windy City Queer, an anthology edited by Kathie Bergquist, has just been published by University of Wisconsin Press.  I enjoyed the release party at Women and Children First books store very much.  I was delighted to read with other contributors to the book, including Sharon Bridgforth, Gregg Shaprio, Achy Obejas, and Goldie Goldbloom.  If I had to pick a favorite among the readings, (all fine writers and readers) I'd say that Goldie's was it--she is shy, I think, but her slight nervousness fit so well with the tone of the story she read.  If you get a chance, read her novel The Paperbark Shoe. Set in Australia in WW II, the odd, hapless, and wonderful characters reminded me of the work of Carson McCullers as well as earlier John Irving.  I am eager to read (or hear) more of her work.

I read my poem from the anthology.  In support of all the work that went into the anthology, I'd ask for you to buy it, or check it out of your library--I like my piece in it just fine, but there's much to enjoy and ponder in the book in addition to my short poem. You can read the other one I performed the night of the release party after the jump.  It's a bit of a crowd-pleaser, but I like the "I-do-this, I do-that Frank O'Hara quality of it, and feel happy that the first draft's dashed off feel (I did write it there in the park) remains after its many revisions.

The Sparrows Look like Leaves that Have Taught Themselves to Hop

I sit on a bench in the park across from the Museum of Contemporary Art,
A little boy on the playground behind me shouts, “Bird, Bird, Bird!”
Bird bird bird! and then his mother says “Darwin, give me a break, come on,
we are going this way, and I realize that tomorrow I will be 43 years old—
the dark gray pigeon with red-rimmed eyes approaches, no, this is not
a symbol or a sign, just the bird itself, looking for a handout; the shadows
on my park bench are suffused with green, although I’ d been hoping
for the quake of leaves gone yellow: that buoyancy, that vibrancy—
in 43 more years I shall be 86, this might be my mid-life, or I might be dead
by this time next year, there are aches lately, and a twinge in my elbow
that is more than a twinge, let’s not think too closely about my father’s arthritis
or my grandfather’s bad heart, or the fabled bus that might hit me tomorrow, 
among the brown leaves on the lawn, the sparrows look like leaves

that have taught themselves to hop. I should stand up, I should walk, 
but I like the solitude, Michigan Avenue one block away, crowded 
with shopping bags and tourists and yes, be careful, those fabled 
crosstown buses, not to mention the horses, just a bit ago I crossed 
the street in front of a carriage stopped at the light, and for the briefest 
of moments saw the loam brown eyes of the horse, and I felt that this particular horse 
saw me, if nothing else, today I have registered on the retina of a street cabbie’s horse, 
not to get all zen on you, but this appears to be enough to accomplish in one day: 
to be seen by a horse, to have pigeon approach me on scaly clown feet, 
then there’s the what—thrush, I think (Yesterday I found one dead 
on the walkway that leads to my house) but this bird is greenly and leapingly alive 
one park bench over, likewise the starling, its blue-headed sheen, likewise the woman 
in a red dress and black boots: the bird-like sprint of her legs--at times I am astonished at how romantic and foolish and in love I can be, but why not praise the stuff of the world, the young man on the train a while back, he rubbed his hand across the upper thigh of his worn jeans, 
and I think he wanted me to watch him do that, and there was the amiable excitement 
of the El crowd: they exited at Addison, off to see a Cubs Game—in the park 
the health nuts are running, while an old woman, her gold sweater draped about her shoulders just so, sips her coffee and looks into the late sunlight spangled in the trees. Why

are there so many pure white pigeons in this park? Why do I waste any time 
chewing again and again on the bones of old wrongs? I could just as soon always 
remain alive, like this, this, this, this park a battleground for the quarrelsome sparrows, this steely squeak of swingsets chains and the cries of “Daddy, push me!” this inhalation, 
this taking in, this hunger I have, but don’t cry for me, I am due for high tea 
in a half hour: harp music and piss elegance in the Palm Court of the Drake Hotel,this hunger I have and the city says eat, the city says swallow, says run and breath, 
says belly and stretch and jay and flight, rise up now, walk, 
don’t be late, the world

says wonder, and bird, bird, bird.


  1. Oh this is life, and wonder, and looking. I truly love this poem of yours. Yes, why not praise? My thoughts exactly. And your observations are just blissful for me.

    It's a delight to discover your writing, so thank you for popping in on my post about Robert Turney's art exhibit with Steve Rachman. I was so happy with your visit.

    Congratulations on the anthology!

  2. "The Sparrows..." is one of my favorite of your recent pieces. I never tire of hearing you read it!