Once: movies could have been filmed
along clock shadows of the street
that proudly kept time, would stop
dead, mark the hour of their demise in wilted fashion
with each coming corner another account:
radio shows, dim sum palaces,
a bakery sprung from nightclub ashes
remembering hot jazz that leaked from glass doors
into the air of Lawrence and Broadway,
hearing bootleg sirens amid the rush of
hands restless in dawn, listening to the overhead trains
like the waves of the Atlantic.
Another piece of flotsam:
a stroller yesterday, a phonebook the day before,
last week: a picture of someone’s lover,
shoes, wineglasses, sunlight reflected in dried pinot noir,
today a map of the city that you should never trust—
the street names stay the same even after
Uptown turns tattered, boards and promises of
reconstruction and children
marching past the Asian grocer
who always asks to check your bag.
The map out of place
on the corner where forty years ago
this scalloped, bent man first tasted
north-side fear in the crack of a gunshot’s
and a face in black and white,
and ink rubbing off on his fingers
while west was his newborn son crying.
In the meantime a truck had to be taken across town,
plywood in tow, the lampposts like walking sticks of the invisible,
plastic Mary’s statuette on the dashboard
and St. Christopher watching
Broadway mansions turn Section 8, leveled again
as it became clear that everything would be,
the buildings rebuilt,
a multitude from dust,
feeding the drifting hungry along Argyle
and Magnolia at two AM
with so many night cries punctuating
the evenings, afraid as even St. Joseph
must have harbored fears
that the newborn child in the manger
was never going to love him.
Along the nails and glass of Sheridan
a paperboy upsets the calm
of a retirement home
by again letting his bundle
sound its triumphant SMACK!
against the door of the building
before he peddles toward the Aragon,
stops for atole and tamales,
and prepares to eye the women
commuting to work
climbing the steps of the el
their legs and buttocks
stretched like forty years of economic decline
under their pant suits and skirts.
The river Elsa divides the hills: here lavender,
there confession. Love is more than we understand,
the island that was once the city,
a universal anomaly, water on earth.
Where each candle’s a prayer, my presence
is already a frame from the past,
our grandmothers’ maiden names
folded in creases of the decades,
which is a way of saying I want to remember
the old Hungarian songs I was never taught.
Someone says the Berkshires. I was a child there
riding in the backseat toward the green mountains
to see my grandfather before he died.
Cups in the cupboards; framed print of a man
balancing a basket of chrysanthemums on his back. . .
Unmistakable nostalgia begins in November,
knowing something is passing
but not knowing how to tell anyone—
chords; snow shaking down; memory
of what you never saw. (Only when you’re leaving
do lights of New York wink like lit candles on water).
Life seems lavishly planned but desperately unsure.
Watery, mutable horizon— dawn affirms our flaws
as some take responsibility for what we’ve done
the only way we know how.
What I’ve severed is not gone;
what I’ve brought to an end
I’ve tried to revive.
the tired arms
all our mothers are on morphine it is intravenous it is in the mouth our mothers on morphine flailing with tangled arms swearing words we’ve never sworn. we are savoring shrimp cocktails. we reminisce of cocktails. we will be saved by pale pinkness of shrimp unshelledness of shrimp dipped in red sauce my mother loves red sauce on pure pinkness of shrimp, uncooked, thawed out in water. we’ll thaw our mothers out in water, colanders filled of mothers, tiny mothers, melted off their morphine, they are so small the smallest they are no longer crying they are humming. we rinse our humming mothers in the big bin of our sink and the sink makes us calm. humm humm. we have always loved lullabies. i am lulled by the hum of their voices. i am lulled by monotony of tones the monotony of movements. i am shimmying out of my morphine i am shimmying out of my skin out of my thick red meat i am leaving my meat for wolves and for men and i am joining the soft humming of mothers in the colander. we are on a boat out at sea in the sink and we will make it rise with pure pinkness of our voices. i want to be the flesh of my mother i want to bind into her shell i want the pure pinkness i was when she met me. i smell of raw fish, of the inside of your legs, of the texture of scallops. i am a pillow mint. i will wait here for you till you sleep. until you turn down. i have the patience of a pillow mint the pure pinkness of a shrimp i am shimmying out of my shell my skin my meat i am by the highway i am leaving myself here i am roadkill i will be picked up by pickups by hard men with hard ons they will throw me over their shoulders slap me on my ass but i will feel it in my front where my mother let me out pure pink of shrimp so soft so small how i wish to be small, roadside, pink nude invisible to hard ons of hard men i am fingernails and fingers. i am the size of your smallest toe i am the taste of pillowed scallops i am the desire in your front when they hit you on the back i am the undone. i am the undone. i am the undone i am onions to make you cry you small mothers in my sink raise your hands at my faucet i take your muted hands in mine i rise you to water i’ll feed you dizzy from my mouth. dear mothers we need to lead we need to escape to the side of the road to leave our red meat far from our pinkness. my red meat is there and my pinkness is here. my red meat is there and my pinkness is here put my pinkness where my mouth is take me inside from outside take me roadside. i am pure pinkness of shrimp in the small mouths of my mother.
Nicholas Yoke Hin Wong
If you gazed behind the fretwork of spaghetti westerns,
you wouldn’t have guessed, Pablo, that the poem is, too,
metropolitan anxiety at work. A stark cactus bearing lust
for broken lines of sweat. Cross-cultural, my love for you
is really old, like a solitary oak crowded out by olive trees.
With sharp funicular arms, it naturalizes every metaphor,
multiplies with precise needlework Pinocchio’s error, and
lives what lie the soul is permitted, only avoiding the one
last noose every lonely dove hangs on. Careless, each bird
that makes love on branches, becomes the very same cock
that gurgled “original” on your cornflakes box, or in 1350,
bore witness to Ramon Arnau de Biure’s famous stabbing
on Christmas Eve. The tune of death crows louder, finally,
and it’s not Peter’s insufferably stuffy biblical pigeon. Yet,
to love you as tree and bird collide, is hard, as the concrete
nouns inside us must wear different ecological footprints.
Yet I write in Spanish: to love, steal the Alhambra’s breath
from meteors of night, and smell the circular boast of weed
in a soap factory nearby, we are already high and flying, no
longer holding to the warm sheets in Madrid, the same lives.