I could stand there, cut it all up, onions, peppers,
Tomatoes, romaine and red, the greens, dry them,
Tear them up, chop, toss it in a bowl.
Who wants to do all that and then—eat it
Alone? Salads are chatty, sociable, so
Togetherish at a lamplit table, everyone (or two)
Taking helpings. If you’re alone, helpings—are
Nothing. Better to take bread, a nice sourdough
Baguette, bit-fuls pulled off; it’s a home, private,
A good gnaw in the cave; delicious too,
Don’t forget that. Ah so, a jug of wine, a loaf
Of bread, a green salad beside me in the apartment.
Drip, drip up the ceiling somewhere, sky touching
Sky-light whose dome ups the volume to chord with
Jets farther aloft, coming in or going out on us,
All of us, the city: a few green aquilegia
Still going strong; after cutting back, what’s left
Of peonies yellowing beside the tub ob papyrus,
Leaflets brown-tipped; birch and crab leaves falling; soon
None or few along the branches—or, let’s say, twigs—
Their faint lattice screening past walls of brick-red
Towers thrown up recently, masonry dropping its resolute
Pall over rosemary, clematis, chives withering till
About noon, now that sun declines with winter coming.
Trees on the skyline twenty stories up, someone’s terrace.
Bet they don’t have robins (pigeons so adapted they hardly
Qualify as wildlife), or squirrels. Somewhere in there
Cats are dozing by the hundreds but they don’t take to leashes
So on the street it’s dogs—today a dog-walker sat resting
On a crate, his dogs standing around, sitting, understanding;
They’ve all known hours leashed to meters watching in
On their masters at dinner. They look spiffy but hide distress
That shows when they look down, sitting, waiting, confounded
By concrete. Up on the roofs beyond this window, no
Nuthatch or jay. Can bees come so far to pollinate
These flowers? Rare the terrace sporting a pat of bird lime.
Scrawled note in the lobby: “where was exterminator sign-up sheet
For this month?” I miss squirrels, not rats. Go to the park?
A walk in the park two blocks away at dusk—no squirrels
But a clutch of boys camped in the bushes shouting, “fuck!
Out of our space!” at the moms and their kids trying to have
Picnic supper; daring the moms to come over, screaming
“Fuck you you’re not the police we have a right to—.” Once
they would have carried pails at twilight, leading cattle
To stalls; fishing, or maybe a little recreational
Marketing with bow and arrow on the banks of a river;
In the woods, aiming to down a pheasant. “Fuck you” they hoot
From the shadows by the sign DO NOT FEED THE PIGEONS.
You burn daylight sometimes when you’re dreaming on
The No. 6 train: I’m alone in my apartment, then there’s
A knock on the door, I peer through the peephole and it’s me
In a silk wrapper. A babe in a stroller beside me, all
Eyes; brown eyes eyeing me, the rest of him swathed
In tiny but as yet outsized sweats and sneaks; he’s finishing
His bottle eyeing me; Mom, with steady gaze (all “business”),
Sixteen or seventeen, holding the bottle, glowing
Hair combed back neat. Soon the mother’s great black eyes
Look down the car, lost—she’s still bottle-holding—in thought,
Duty, mothering. Last night a black kid—about her age—
Sat down across, zoot jeans slung low and cut so full
The crotch came at his knees, which yardage with outsize
Warm-up jacket enfolded, wrapped him as he hunched, eyes
Lowered. Both hands at mouth; I guessed he was mouthing something.
Such crossings make a roll, run of scales going off
Into the light that falls across them, ordering: when
The rider next to me left, boy lurched over, hands
Still at mouth; plumped down, copping quick streetwise
Fierce glances my way; kept at it, thumb to the hilt between
Lips glistening, fervently reaching (like and “Olmec baby”)
Staring in ecstasy. The infant in the stroller that
Broke into my dream is like the uneasy inward rider,
And the way the chance-assembled riders swaying together
Carefully fail to notice the boy withdrawn into
What pain, intent as they must be on their own
Underground going, fleeing wherever they came from to
Wherever they go, each body lurching, touching, is
A tone in the arpeggio they make up; at exit they crowd
As one, fit together like the fleshy bracts of
An artichoke head. We’re forever not letting ourselves
In on our selves, taken up as we are with selves, our wrappers,
Doubles. Pompous thoughts at 86th street! Outside
Again, on Lax, a flight of pigeons storms down the avenue
In sunlight then, in front of ANNIE’S FRUIT AND VEGETABLES
Cuts through to shade; and on, eclipsed; no one the wiser.
As a boy Ramakrishna leapt about in trees, amazing
Limb-to-limb grace, chattering like a monkey; being
Hanuman, adherent of Rama, attending his patron god:
Kiran is telling me this as we sit in the White Horse Tavern,
Chat over soup and sandwiches. A couple, so close,
At the next table announce they’d be happy—looks so good—
To share our meal. They were openly Californian. But we
Hold to our space—and talk: he was illiterate. Taught
In parables. Told stories, the Indian way. He was
Unstable they say, trances educed by illness; seizures.
Now in a deep samadhi of marble his likeness presides
On the alter of the shrine some Boston ladies built nearby.
…See, light in Calcutta comes all at once, the humming stillness
Of tropic dawn invades the Great Eastern, high windows wide
For a breath of night air; now day’s; kites circling imperious
Skies where cloud shreds back off from the ravenous sun.
The city spreads out below the fourth story window,
Everywhere flat-top roofs lie in the muddy light, awash
With sheeted bodies rising, stretching, folding bed cloaks,
Waking for the hunt, under alert wheeling of the birds.
(This would arouse you, it was somehow that erotic);
Or later at the porch of Ramakrishna’s Dakshineswar cell
Eyeing the stone where he spent so much time kicking back
In samadhi, and the awful statue of Mother Kali, cruder
Than you imagined it. Out in the temple yard a mother—
Her babe in arms doing the begging—steers over, his
(Remaining) fist shoots out, digits splay, wiggle,
Craning for rupees; flies crowd at his eyelids. Stopped
Tancelike, excited, you give forgetting you promised the youth
You hired: no baksheesh. “Run with me” he cries pulling you
To the car. Inside, doors locked, daylight canceled by lips,
Cheeks, hands, noses flattened, pressed on your glass
Bubble. Motionless. Silence. Stop-frame. Six hundred thousand
Live on the streets….By midnight bus then, horn and headlight
Rouse, divide white sheeted bodies. As if under water
They rise and part, float in their slo-mo of oblivion.
Seferis wrote there was much to be said for the Aegean
But no one had seen it all until he knew the life
On New York subways. (I guess he didn’t know that dank
Dakshineswar compound). Two guys get on, one with
Bell-bottoms big as shirts, eight rings in each ear (I
Count them when they sit beside me), a nose ring and lower
Lip ring, studs a eyebrows, nostrils; a glittering head
(“Really loaded” as they say on secondhand lots); his friend
In a Ringling Bros. T-shirt totes a cashmere (or the like)
Topcoat now in his lap. They’re talking, loud. “A little
Reality,” the ringed lad says. The other, “it’s a little
Reality, yeah.”—“A little reality.” “A little reality…”.
Over her body a coat once green hung in strips.
White hair, sharp eye that peered from a face leather
And squinting as one who had spent long months in the trenches;
Ankles bruised blue, she wore a man’s sneakers (size about
13) like scrows on stockingless feet. You stood among
Commuters waiting at 42nd Street. She moved in close.
You saw the mahogany welts like badges on her arm
When she reached (all at once she tracked you); dove
Into the bin, churn of trash, neatly fished out
The bagged crust of pizza slice you’d just finished
And chucked. Savaged it open; dug in (so much
As gums allowed). Anchorite, shadow rider; twin!
Chink-clang of a trash hauler scooping up the building’s
Garbage bags—my alarm clock. The truck’s tucked my trash
Into beg with the stuff of everyone else on the street.
And tears sleep wide open—day like a pit toward which
The mudslide of consciousness, prickly with oughtnesses, slides.
List time: this’n that. Phone! Landlady’s dentist. I’m getting
My feet in it, sludge of this blessed day; sun this morning.
Good godfrey crows! Crows from nowhere sound their raucous
Alarm, chase an intruder back and forth in the canyon
Out my window. All I can see is a skein of garment bag
Riding an updraft, floating ten stories up, the plastic
Silvery in a shaft of light through a rift in apartment towers.