“After” by Marilynn Talal

Marilynn Talal

AFTER

After my stroke
After I broke
A second rib

I saw I couldn’t
Save his life
The low flower face

The tiger
Had leapt
Between us.

from Rattle #48, Summer 2015
Tribute to New Yorkers

__________

Marilynn Talal: “When I was four or five, my mother and I were in our kitchen in the Bronx, where I was born and grew up, and she was talking to me about God and how S/He made the world. I asked if God made houses. She replied, ‘People make houses.’ I looked out the window in the front of the house and saw leafy trees in full summer foliage. ‘Do people make trees?’ ‘No, God makes trees.’ ‘Does God make poems?’ ‘No, people make poems.’ I felt my eyes become more alive as I stared at the magic book of poems in my hand and decided I wanted to be a maker of poems when I grew up.”



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“The Poe Cottage, 1992” by Katherine Barrett Swett

Katherine Barrett Swett

THE POE COTTAGE, 1992

The country has abandoned it,
but not the wild.
Crackheads sit

on ruined benches in the park,
crows call from plane
trees, pitbulls bark

at children playing in the glass,
the dirtied dream
of bureaucrats

who hoped once to commemorate
local genius,
not recreate

the House of Usher, death, unrest,
delirium.
Our guide confessed,

“I sleep in the house when I can.
I have a room
in Manhattan,

but it’s quiet here and near Fordham
where I’m in school.
At four a.m.

I even play my violin.
No one complains.”
We followed him,

stooping as we came inside
the dark, low walls
where his child bride

lay in a room three paces wide,
only a coat and cat
for warmth, and died.

from Rattle #48, Summer 2015
Tribute to New Yorkers

__________

Katherine Barrett Swett: “I have lived in New York City for my entire life. I was born in the same hospital where my children were born and teach at the same school where I was a student. These facts make me that rare creature, a provincial New Yorker. I like to write about the intimate aspects of New York life, not about ambition or skyscrapers, but about caged animals, anonymous ailanthus trees, obscure museums. To someone like me, New York can seem as small, as intimate and as unexpected as a brief poem. How do you make sense of chaos? You divide it into lines, what the city fathers called a grid plan.”



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“Central Park Zoo, 1970” by Katherine Barrett Swett

Katherine Barrett Swett

CENTRAL PARK ZOO, 1970

Back in the old zoo—the place the child
of New York’s Parks commissioner once called
Sing-Sing for beasts, where elephants and wild
cats, bears and rhinos were all jailed,
sliced into strips of pacing fur, the shriek
and stink of monkeys everywhere, a mess—
it was not pastoral or picturesque,
and unprotected by a wilderness,
forced to face a hungry, hot stare,
we felt them close and thought, we are like this,
monkeys fighting, lions with twitching haunches,
their paunches swinging; and while we ate our lunches,
children circled round the chipped green benches,
taunting each other, “you belong in there.”

from Rattle #48, Summer 2015
Tribute to New Yorkers

__________

Katherine Barrett Swett: “I have lived in New York City for my entire life. I was born in the same hospital where my children were born and teach at the same school where I was a student. These facts make me that rare creature, a provincial New Yorker. I like to write about the intimate aspects of New York life, not about ambition or skyscrapers, but about caged animals, anonymous ailanthus trees, obscure museums. To someone like me, New York can seem as small, as intimate and as unexpected as a brief poem. How do you make sense of chaos? You divide it into lines, what the city fathers called a grid plan.”



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“In a Room at the Marriott Marquis” by Myra Shapiro

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Myra Shapiro

IN A ROOM AT THE MARRIOTT MARQUIS

To die
in Times Square
is a fact to contemplate
since I am old and here
on 44th Street in a vast hotel
40 floors above the earth

(only there is no earth
visible). Concrete giants
(having gobbled land) stand
planted like Nature. 

A slim body of water,
a shoulder of the Hudson,
lies west, and a ferry
is making its way

away from here
where yolk-yellow taxis
stream in a valley below,
and enormous voices/bodies
eager to be seen/heard hawk

Mama Mia, Toshiba, Jersey Boys
Buy me, look Here, no, Here, Here!

where
tucked in, aslant,
a radiant red staircase rises
to seat you,
to fix you
like a star—

There is no death! Wake up!

from Rattle #48, Summer 2015
Tribute to New Yorkers

[download audio]

__________

Myra Shapiro: “I was born in the Bronx but my father moved us to a little town in Georgia ‘to make a buck’ when I was ten, so I spent years longing for the City that fit me: the way I spoke (a mix of immigrant rhythms and no-nonsense directness), buildings that held me close, lit-up windows that warmed me. In 1981, I started subletting apartments and I’m still here.”



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“Offering” by Harry Newman

Harry Newman

OFFERING

it used to be one mendicant
monk now there are three
bowls to their sides walking
single file in the direction
of the station everyone rushing
by them on the way to work
briefcases brushing their robes
heels perilously close to bare feet

they move together without
interrupting the flow around them
their even steps more like gliding
as if the world truly were illusion
or they were or both two dreams
blurring through each other
to a dream larger still and

I find myself thinking about
spiritual commuting the empty
offices they’d go to no furniture
phones carpeting bare except perhaps
a framed koan or two on the walls
above motivation or would they wait
every morning on the platform
instead for a train that never comes

I remember the mornings then
well before sunrise alone
in the street walking the dog
I’d see the oldest one coming
out of the darkness toward me
as if he’d been crossing the city
endlessly taking the measure
of the night are we more blessed

by three now or more in need
I wonder as two Thai girls near
the corner the only ones who notice
bow before them hands together
in gassho one kneeling almost
to the ground then rising to give
their offerings a quart of soup and rice 

the monks stop and whisper to them
back in the world for a moment
a street in Queens cars honking
planes overhead the restaurant beside
them selling platanos while the rest
of us continue in the stream having
only ourselves left to offer the day
the city this illusion of our lives

from Rattle #48, Summer 2015
Tribute to New Yorkers

__________

Harry Newman: “Living in New York is like living at the base of any great mountain range. It slowly invades your consciousness without your being aware of it. There’s the press of its gravity, the press of scale, its dominating quality, of always being dwarfed by it. It occupies all horizons. And this inevitably comes out in one’s writing. Very few of my poems relate directly to life in the city, but I think its imprint is often there in a sense of isolation, a yearning for places far away, for the horizon that’s always obscured, in the feeling of being apart from others and the world (the natural world). The way I’ve found to live and write in relation to this is to look for the moments of humanity, the possibilities of connection to the people and other creatures living here, as well as to the large, more fragile aspects of spirit, imagination, and hope, which too often get lost against the concrete rock faces far from the summit.” (website)



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