It’s December in Richmond Hill Queens, Early 90s, 2 a.m.
Cendal flotante de leve bruma,
rizada cinta de blanca espuma
—Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer from Rimas XV
Where I am delirious from delayed flights and a befuddled cabbie, where I am doing accents
of which I should be ashamed, the wrong road, said the driver rolling his Rs.
No phones here in the past offer directions in a voice not unlike my mother’s. But this is your mother’s
kitchen and here we sit, beers in our grips, and you explaining again the open road, forking paths,
the everyday holiday of O’Hara. Billie sings. We hold our breath.
Brother, give me again your mother’s sauce recipe you scrawled on white paper. I remember the
brown sugar at the heart of the sauce, but an ex-wife has likely thrown away the stained,
sweet instructions by now.
I recall how Cortazar believed that people do not make love but it makes us. Or you said that?
I know in the gym you were all elbows and left-handed scoop shots and sneaky fouls. The fouls
were also mine, but I learned them from you.
For years, I dreamed basketball games where I was unguarded and only you would pass me the ball.
I don’t know if I ever passed it back. I must have? In my sleep, I took the shot. Awake, I missed.
On the court of languages, I speak one. I fake dialects and feint from Spanish to English
to silence. I’ve started to think that may be enough—the turn down one path and the gesture
towards two more—enough. A veil of haze lifts, a ribbon of road unfolds.
Whichever way we turn, there will be poison or life. Give me the commonest air and a hint of basil.
Give me a night in the nineties when a friend’s parents’ couch and two beers become enough home
to lull a young man—with folk songs and basketballs and sirens and the wind’s hoarse
lament—to sleep, his lungs at rest, his eyes closed, as a few dreams open again
towards uncertain and possible roads.
Here in My Perfect Small Town Where the Heroes Are All Poets
With Hymns in Their Heads
We walk in the streets because the sidewalks only
go halfway down the block then turn into grass.
So it makes sense that I’m wearing my bad shoes
on the brutal iced roads, the holey ones (the shoes),
and my socks are damp as I am launched across
cracked brick paving stones when my neighbor touches
me, brushes me aside with her silver Ford’s fender,
a salt streak residues dow n the side of my blue down
vest. For days, I’ve been humming a staid old hymn,
“Softly and Tenderly.” “Jesus,” I shout and “Up yours,
old lady,” my teacher-voice echoing off the ice. Here
on my knees in the damp I can see an ice-encased
set of gloves, black and folded together. I leave them
there, my stupid dark prayers still bittering the air.
Animal in Middle Age
—after Frank O’Hara
I have not forgotten what we were like
when we coursed and pulsed and came
deep into the dark, frenzied with heat.
It’s often, now, a worry. Scarcity. Injury.
But then we played tricks on our hungers
and turned the sheets into hidden groves of trees.
Entire orchards seemed like ours to devour.
We didn’t need wine bottles or time.
We pressed sweet cider from the immediate flesh.
I do not want to be so thicketed again,
drunk always as then. But, O untamed,
unsettled love, those were not all our days.
On spring evenings, at dusk, we can quicken,
still, open our mouths to lick at the salt, know
the need, the pulse in the palms of our hands.
Gertrude Stein’s and Walt Whitman’s Wild Night of Love
So you come to them and ask, what is the belly?
where is the garden with its stands of ornamental grasses?
and the intimate center of the grasses, the buds?
And the belly they lift to you is your own, belly, center that carries its own mother,
crescent that holds its own versions of the moon, several versions of the sun,
the moon and sun in a belly, belly, round and moon, round and sun—
And this is their Union, to be, self-evident, self-reverent—all bellies are created
by such nights of leisure and expanse—
Come to me and dance, and she did.
Come to me and lift an arm around the neck of a woman or a wife
or a man or a little husband, would be good, to lift an arm around
a difference, and he did.
This is the poem bred of other poems, bred of other, bread of other.
It began with draughts of beer, and draughts of beer, too much beer and ended
on a Paris bridge in the morning where other Parisian lovers left each other
for the Louvre and the market and the berries in the market.
And the Thames he mispronounced, and the Thames she said is the Seine.
And he told her, I have never been to England. And she saw his beard as it grew.
And she saw his beard as it was flecked with food and beer.
And felt the thrum of the misfingered chord, and walked home across the bridge
to tell Alice.
And he saw many he could not love in the streets.
But you, generations, tensed, such venerations, bent like limbs.
Oh you and the belly you furnish toward the moon
and the common, perfect ground.
You, he still feels. You a particular name on his tongue.
David Wright‘s poems have appeared in 32 Poems, Image, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Ninth Letter, among others. He most recent poetry collection is Local Talent (Purple Flag/Virtual Artists Collective, 2019). He lives in West Central Illinois where he teaches creative writing and literature at Monmouth College. He can be found on Twitter @sweatervestboy.