“Offering” by Harry Newman

Harry Newman


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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