“It is What it is,” They Said Vacantly.

September 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

found on facebook

A lot of rapes happening lately, in our fair city.

Not what you expected under this lovely picture, is it? It was starting to feel so safe in New York! It was as if the city was kind—in itself, I mean, in its razzmatazz soul. It’s not, though. The metro beat is hard on people, even if you don’t get raped. Everyone—okay, a significant proportion—have a dangerously overgrown nervous systems; you can see those extra nerves whipping under people’s skin like angry snakes. You can see it in 12-year-olds.

I’m attuned to the dark side—you know that by now. Somebody has to do it. I’m casting about, figuring out how to write about the savage birds inside me without letting them eat my liver. Words are not my servants. They can be gifts; they can be wounds. I hover, wanting to do things prudently, and thinking maybe I can’t.

Charles is thinking about looking for work. He’s talented and resourceful, blessed with a quick and eclectic mind, a wide range of skills, and an utter lack of assholic tendencies. But he’s not quite as young as he used to be. Worse than that, it’s 2012, which is not as bad as 2009, but not as good as any other year before 2008. I recently saw 50 resumes (sifted by HR out of many 100s) of people with multiple degrees & solid experience for what was a modest-salaried entry-level job. This isn’t news, but it’s different when you read the resumes for yourself, feel the desperation with which people present themselves, following in lockstep the advice of the experts about how to do it—which got them all tossed into the reject pile. The ones who got interviewed were those who sounded like actual people. The one who got the job had the least experience. She’s doing great.

You wonder about all these degrees. There’s so much that can be learned for free; I could spend the next hundred years in bed with my laptop and not be done with it. So much depends (or not) on that very expensive, risky investment in a credential. When young people I know take on debt to go to graduate school, I fear for them. New York is rolling in people with graduate degrees. And a good proportion of the new college graduates who couldn’t get jobs in 2009/2010 are now hiding out in law school (thought safer than B school, for some reason having to do with the fear of ending up in jail: alas, delusional).

The Orphans of the Crash now make up a sovereign entity with more residents than New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Texas combined.

One day these kids will be pushed out of the higher education hive. If they don’t find jobs, what will become of them? Will they offer their warm bodies and overeducated minds to new incarnations of Occupy Wall Street? Become the climate change soldier corps we need for round-the-clock protest, vigils, volunteer work?

I imagine, in the near dystopian future, that they auction off their childhood bedrooms. Actual orphans, victims of foreign wars, having amassed savings by driving cabs 24 hours a day, become able to lounge in suburban enclaves on long vacations, enjoying the bewildered attentions of parents forced to honor their children’s debts by treating these strangers as kin. It’s good for America. It’s just like a movie. The savvier parents negotiate TV deals. One day, you’ll be able to sell your faith, your sense of humor, perfect pitch, ability to get any member of the opposite sex in bed. Caveat Emptor.

Charles is playing his guitar on the street, making a few dollars. He refuses to try it with a cat on his head.

New York Notes

1.Caught on a side street in heavy traffic, I said to the cabbie, I should have walked. He replied, I should have been a doctor. 2. When can I get on the 11:33, I ask the guy in the information booth at the Atlantic Avenue Station. When they open the doors, he says. I am home among my people.

Harvey Shapiro

Old Coat

Dressed in an old coat I lumber
Down a street in the East Village, time itself

Whistling up my ass and looking to punish me
For all the undone business I have walked away from,

And I think I might have stayed
In that last tower by the ocean,

The one I built with my hands and furnished
Using funds which came to me at nightfall, in a windfall….

Just ahead of me, under the telephone wires
On this long lane of troubles, I notice a gathering

Of viciously insane criminals I’ll have to pass
Getting to the end of this long block in eternity.

There’s nothing between us. Good
I look so dangerous in this coat.

Liam Rector

New Feature: Climate Change Factoid

Richard Alley, one of the world’s leading climate researchers, tells the fascinating history of global climate changes as revealed by reading the annual rings of ice from cores drilled in Greenland. In the 1990s he and his colleagues made headlines with the discovery that the last ice age came to an abrupt end over a period of only three years.

I’ve Got News for You

September 23, 2012 § 5 Comments

Jean-Claude Itallie

Lisa took me to a one-man show by Jean Claude van Itallie at La Mama Friday night. The veteran playwright, long connected to La Mama and its founder Ellen Stewart, told the story of his life from a childhood in Europe during/after WWII to discovering his homosexuality, becoming a writer, falling in love.

The audience was arrayed in a circle around this slender, lithe 70-something, this gay Jewish elf, long-simmered in Tibetan Buddhism. He asked us all to stand up, say our name and where we were born. It sounded nothing more than friendly, yet there was a cumulative power to hearing each voice name a city or country—Brooklyn; Chicago; London; the Bronx; Portsmouth, New Hampshire; Hackensack, New Jersey. Milan, San Francisco, The Philippines, Japan. Detroit, Germany, Fayetteville, Alabama.

Jean-Claude talked about the stamp of fear left on him from his early childhood, though he never saw a Nazi. He described his youth in 1960’s Greenwich Village. “I slept with over 1,000 men,often three a day, and I think the cruise was what mattered more than the sex.” I wanted to know more about that, the current of desire and curiosity that takes you from one man to another all day long—something no woman I know would do for pleasure. “Sometimes we’d talk a bit later.” What I’ve experienced of strangers in the night required a lot of talking beforehand. How does one reach that dream state where the body and the willingness is all that matters, no need to find a hook in personality?

Paris Hilton thinks it’s disgusting that gay men (some gay men) have frequent sex with strangers. I think most women kind of do. I just find it mysterious.

Jean-Claude had other tales to tell, mostly about the theater, and the disappointment of botching opportunities—a rave review from Walter Kerr, not followed up on. The regrets and might-have-beens. He paused at key moments to sing snatches of the popular songs of his era: Some Enchanted Evening when he fell in love; Cole Porter’s You’re the Top to accompany his tale of living vicariously through his boyfriend. I never tire of those songs.

He ended with something that jerked me out of my own regretful might-have-been state: a fierce message about Global Warming—why the hell aren’t we all screaming in the streets?

I know why I’m not, and it doesn’t speak well of me. Activism requires a belief in oneself, a belief in success, as well as a desire to change the world. But there must be something a person with no confidence can contribute. (I have contributed a little bit, through the Cathedral.) As for contributing on my own time, I’m thinking about it. I’ve given up trying to drill through my emotional issues. I’m going back to the old fashioned work-around, with the advantage/disadvantage of some insight into how and why I fall short.

I talked to Lisa about climate change on the walk to the subway—in the gently cool September night, with just the right, fluttering breeze. Friday night in the East Village, crossing Lafayette, Broadway, University, then a diagonal through the lit-up park—as usual full of competing musicians, lonely souls, college kids and strolling lovers—and west to Sheridan Square. Everyone was out on the first night of Autumn.

I talked about climate change; she didn’t. I interpreted her silence, and it was eloquent, but I won’t offer that interpretation here, since this is not fiction and I don’t have the right to inhabit her skin.

What I said was how hard it is to be in a city you’ve lived in for years, to know it so well, its past, the lives it’s held, to see it night after night full of activity and imagine that in the not-so-distant future it could be a ruin or under water. I won’t live to see that (I hope), but New York is supposed to continue, to seduce and thwart and parent each generation. It’s only the beginning, isn’t it? When do the flying cars arrive? What about the robot waitress; the new outpost of artists; the sleek buildings rising, skins glimmering with color; the money; the fame; the stories; the surprise. How does one imagine that it’s possible—not certain but possible—that this city may be living its last century?

Something will happen. We’ll adjust. We’ll adapt. People will demand change, insist on it, and fortunes will be made in solar and wind.

That’s what I hear. Then everyone goes to dinner.

I Have News For You

There are people who do not see a broken playground swing
as a symbol of ruined childhood

and there are people who don’t interpret the behavior
of a fly in a motel room as a mocking representation of their thought process.

There are people who don’t walk past an empty swimming pool
and think about past pleasures unrecoverable

and then stand there blocking the sidewalk for other pedestrians.
I have read about a town somewhere in California where human beings

do not send their sinuous feeder roots
deep into the potting soil of others’ emotional lives

as if they were greedy six-year-olds
sucking the last half-inch of milkshake up through a noisy straw;

and other persons in the Midwest who can kiss without
debating the imperialist baggage of heterosexuality.

Do you see that creamy, lemon-yellow moon?
There are some people, unlike me and you,

who do not yearn after fame or love or quantities of money as
unattainable as that moon;
thus, they do not later
have to waste more time
defaming the object of their former ardor.

Or consequently run and crucify themselves
in some solitary midnight Starbucks Golgotha.

I have news for you—
there are people who get up in the morning and cross a room

and open a window to let the sweet breeze in
and let it touch them all over their faces and bodies.

Tony Hoagland

The Past is Another Country

September 20, 2012 § 4 Comments

Arctic Ocean, September 2009

The Times had a front page article yesterday about arctic sea ice and climate change. It echoes, in a softer voice, what I’ve been reading on the blogs–fiercely concerned scientists concluding that because of this accelerating melt, the extreme weather of 2012 could get dramatically worse over the next five to eight years. The release of the methane in the Eastern Siberian ice shelf is the scariest of all the many scary possibilities. I’m not going to try to explain the science; read it here. But it occurs to me that if this happens—ever-worsening droughts and wildfires every summer from now on—food prices will soon rise to a point that I can’t afford to eat. So maybe it’s counterproductive to go on a diet, and I should finish the fudge cake now.

No, it’s not funny, but I have a hard time accepting that the election, the jobs situation, partisan hatred, the deficit, etc, will soon be dwarfed by the storms and droughts, the heat and cold that will descend upon us, irregardless of the fact that we are slowly beginning to change, that solar and wind hav emade such progress. Food riots, killing floods, wild inflation, huge numbers of refugees and wider wars over resources could easily occur within a dozen years. Or maybe not until 2030. But in any case, not very long. If I had money, I’d spend it now. I’d stop thinking long-term and do what I most wanted as soon as possible. (Travel.)

Jorgen Randers, one of the writers of the seminal book The Limits of Growth (1972) writes of learning to grieve for everything that is being and will be lost, of slowly getting over the shock and disbelief—taking the next emotional step, as one does after a death. “I had to learn to live with the loss. To accept that such-and-such a forest was gone—permanently, with no resurrection possible…I believe it will be calming to get to know the world that is likely to be our home in the future, rather than dreaming about the world that could have been. The first step down the road to mental peace is to obtain a precise description of what the world is likely to look like. Then to accept it. Finally, to stop grieving.”

I think that’s what I’m going through, although not being a scientist I can’t come up with my own answers, but veer wildly between different futures. But no matter how soon or how bad, I know that what hasn’t happened has already happened, as when you come back from the doctor with a terminal prognosis. There’s time left but you can’t change the outcome. The polar bears and elephants, the tigers, the lizards and birds and spiders I’ve never seen except on Facebook—those increasingly gorgeous pictures of nature that people seem obsessed with lately—will go. I wish I could see them in person, but maybe it’s better not to.

I don’t think the human race will go extinct or lose the knowledge we’ve gained, but the world of my childhood when the seasons proceeded in an order that felt timeless, following rules I learned a little something about each year— the mysteries of water and photosynthesis, of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rock; the classifying of species, the magic of place names like Madagascar, the Sahara, Antarctica—and my youth when I could read poems from 200 or 1,000 years ago and recognize the earth, the sea, the weather, even when it was a country very much colder or hotter, because it was the same climate in the same place: that’s going. That’s gone. The child who wanted to explore that world won’t get a chance to—sob, sob—but neither will any child now living or to be born.

I’ve always had an apocalyptic bent. It comes more easily now because I’m not looking forward as much—I’m having trust issues with the world. So the natural human impulse to deny a terrifying future has been muted. A large part of me doesn’t believe it can be this bad, just as you don’t believe it. But the crash of 2008—long predicted, not prepared for—has made me more conversant with what the financial prophet Nassim Taleb calls the Black Swan (an event, positive or negative, that is deemed improbable yet causes massive consequences). I can feel the foreshadowing because I’m less afraid of it; then it makes me more afraid.

It also reminds me to enjoy food while I have it. Yesterday I bought 4 for $10 boxes of raspberries at the Farmer’s Market: tiny, dark red, bursting with flavor. I bought lush, bulbous tomatoes, tight-skinned eggplants, palm-sized Macoun apples. I’ll go back tomorrow for green beans and okra, yellow and purple carrots, pears and plums. I think we’ll eat mostly vegetables and fruit through October.

Thinking about the possible very dark near future also makes me glad that several people close to me have been happy in recent years. My sister got married last week. My niece is getting married next summer. My other niece fell in love and my brother’s also happy in love. My husband is happy; my ex-lover is happy. (I’m not entirely glad about the latter, but I try.)

If the world ends in ice and fire in a dozen years, I wish everyone a little more pleasure, normalcy, joy. As for me, I had a beautiful walk last night, past the 19th century brownstones and the musicians in Washington Square Park. I get to play with words and have someone with whom to watch the election coverage. Charles is making me lunch.

Meanwhile, our governments jockey for oil rights in the Arctic. The stupidity is not only that an oil spill there heightens the climate effect significantly (black oil traps sunlight) and that it’s much harder to clean up (no ready fleet of private fishing boats) and so on—the worst part is planning to use that much oil in the first place. What we already have, the known supply in the ground, is enough to send the planet into post-human temperatures. Get used to it, folks: a lot of that oil has to stay there.

I chose this poem because of a part of this entry that I ended up deleting, but I’m going to leave it. It speaks to me.

The Ballad of Moll Magee

Come round me, little childer;
There, don’t fling stones at me
Because I mutter as I go;
But pity Moll Magee.

My man was a poor fisher
With shore lines in the say;
My work was saltin’ herrings
The whole of the long day.

And sometimes from the Saltin’ shed
I scarce could drag my feet,
Under the blessed moonlight,
Along thc pebbly street.

I’d always been but weakly,
And my baby was just born;
A neighbour minded her by day,
I minded her till morn.

I lay upon my baby;
Ye little childer dear,
I looked on my cold baby
When the morn grew frosty and clear.

A weary woman sleeps so hard!
My man grew red and pale,
And gave me money, and bade me go
To my own place, Kinsale.

He drove me out and shut the door.
And gave his curse to me;
I went away in silence,
No neighbour could I see.

The windows and the doors were shut,
One star shone faint and green,
The little straws were turnin round
Across the bare boreen.

I went away in silence:
Beyond old Martin’s byre
I saw a kindly neighbour
Blowin’ her mornin’ fire.

She drew from me my story –
My money’s all used up,
And still, with pityin’, scornin’ eye,
She gives me bite and sup.

She says my man will surely come
And fetch me home agin;
But always, as I’m movin’ round,
Without doors or within,

Pilin’ the wood or pilin’ the turf,
Or goin’ to the well,
I’m thinkin’ of my baby
And keenin’ to mysel’.

And Sometimes I am sure she knows
When, openin’ wide His door,
God lights the stats, His candles,
And looks upon the poor.

So now, ye little childer,
Ye won’t fling stones at me;
But gather with your shinin’ looks
And pity Moll Magee.

W.B. Yeats

The Dirty Animals

September 10, 2012 § 2 Comments

Last night, in the aftermath of emotional storms, I was getting ready for bed when Lola, Charles’ cat, tried to join us in the bedroom. Mouchette, perched on the dresser by the door, shooed her away with that full-bore, dry-ice hiss that always impresses me. I comforted Mouchette then went to talk to Lola, letting her know that she’s welcome in my home even if she can’t join us in bed. All that did was entice her back to the bedroom where Mouchette ramped up her hiss and growl, delivering it with a ferocity and at a volume I’ve never heard from her before.

We were all stunned with the menace emerging from that feathery little throat. Charles wanted to record it. Fitzroy wanted to go out in the hall.

The bedroom is her sanctuary; my bed her safe place to sleep upside down or on my back, while I work or while I sleep; to sit on my chest when I’m crying, her little owl face watching, demanding that I remember the world outside myself, the tumbling world with its fever-tide of beings. In Argentina, wild cats saved a one-year-old homeless boy from dying of exposure. They covered him with their bodies all night.

Mouchette keeps my antidepressants warm, nesting on the bag I keep them in as if they will someday hatch into tiny golden buddhas. No, she doesn’t think that. It just seems like a good idea to me.

My mother says, referring to my previous blog entry, that my life is not a ruin.
“I don’t think you understand how many people love you.”
“I do,” I said.
“No, I don’t think so.”

I don’t think she gets that the essence of depression is that I know but don’t care. And yet, of course I care. But the caring is way back in the closet, behind years of old coats and broken hangers, Christmas wrap, crutches and weights, my skinny clothes and my witch shoes. If I attempt to wade in, my cache of dirty books falls on my head.

Yes, there’s a book muttering inside me, with dirty bits. Sex and tears, ridiculous antics and even more ridiculous emotions. But! A book! I get to be the decider! I can remember kisses or I can flay people—feed them feet first to demons—have them pulled from bed by an iron hook that shoulders in through their bedroom window, then carries them over miles and flings them into the sea, the deep, cold sea with its toothy children.

A memoir of adult love—will I be swamped in erotic feeling, beaten all night?

I would like to be beaten all night. I understand why people desire to be murdered by their lovers. Agreed, this is an uncommon desire. And I wouldn’t really care for it…anyway, the man I’m thinking of, he likes to stay in his comfort zone; he’d botch it.


Putting up new curtains,
other windows intrude.
As though it is that first winter in Cambridge
when you and I had just moved in.
Now cold borscht alone in a bare kitchen.

What does it mean if I say this years later?

Listen, last night
I am on a crying jag
with my landlord, Mr. Tempesta.
I sneaked in two cats.
He screams, “No pets! No pets!”
I become my Aunt Virginia,
proud but weak in the head.
I remember Anna Magnani.
I throw a few books. I shout.
He wipes his eyes and opens his hands.
OK OK keep the dirty animals
but no nails in the walls.
We cry together.
I am so nervous, he says.

I want to dig you up and say, look,
it’s like the time, remember,
when I ran into our living room naked
to get rid of that fire inspector.

See what you miss by being dead?

Ruth Stone

Is Our Children Learning?

September 9, 2012 § 1 Comment

When I think about all the issues being discussed during this election, I’m reminded of the early 90’s—a time when I became certain that terrorist attacks would happen in this country eventually, yet no one seemed to think about it at all. Of course people were thinking about it, but the belief that “it can’t happen here,” was very potent.

Today, the threat is climate change, and it’s discussed all the time, yet even so it seems to me that nobody is taking it seriously. So much talk of America not being able to compete in the global marketplace, of looming Medicare costs, yet no mention of the costs of accelerating disaster clean-up, soaring food prices as droughts deepen, or the warfare that historically arises over water rights. I’m talking about warfare between cities and states in the Western U.S.

I don’t how when any of this will happen or how it will play out but if I were raising children, I would be far more concerned about preparing them for this than for Harvard or competing against the Chinese.

How does one prepare for this? The first thing is to dismantle the idea that it can’t happen here, that America “the greatest country in the world,” is somehow immune to the future. What are parents—those with choices—doing? Focusing intently on their kids’ grades and sports teams. Being well educated and learning to compete are, in theory, advantages but not when the education doesn’t take into account the realities ahead, and not when the sports mania seems mostly about reducing the chaos of life into a tidy win/lose. Never mind how over-parenting is making this generation even less capable of adapting to change than mine or my parents’ was.

As an 11 -15 year old, I was fascinated with books about survival: I must have read Kontiki half a dozen times. That story: in 1947, Thor Heyerdahl became convinced that people from South America would have settled Polynesia and he set out to prove by crossing the Pacific on a raft with a crew of 6. This sotry of storms, sharks, vulnerability and the unknown resonated with me because I was recovering from great family trauma. I knew the focus of my life was endurance and survival and though the situation of Thor Heyerdahl was, for me at that time, a metaphor, I would have recognized any attempt to teach me what I needed to know.

I learned to survive but not to prosper. Most of what I’ve accomplished has been the result of early financial privilege, talent and endurance, not adaptability or risk-taking and though I know depression is clouding my vision, I find it hard to see my life as anything but a ruin. I’m still focused, day-to-day, on psychological survival, to the point that financial survival often feels secondary. One must be alive to need to eat.

Sudden loss always feels like a punishment. When security vanishes, self-confidence withers. Shock paralyzes until you learn to process shock, which I never have. Most people won’t lose a father to suicide at 10, and don’t have a brain that tips naturally to the dark side, but the changes about to overtake us are going to visit the same level of shock on an entire generation.

We can’t teach children what to do about the climate change that is already happening and inevitable. There are too many variables. But we can teach them that life is by its nature full of unexpected loss and change; we can use stories and tell our own stories; we can forget team sports and spend that time on adventure, teaching kids to react to novel situations rather than perfect a series of swim strokes or touchdowns.

Catastrophe Theory II

The foot goes forward, yes.
Yet there are roots. And a giant orb
which focuses its cyclopic eye
on a moiré morning.
When the microcosm is dry—it’s earth;
wet—it’s water.

Water, reeds, electric eel: one possibility.
Sun, reeds, dust mote and mite: another.
Whatever the elements
(it’s urban/it’s pastoral,
it’s empty/it’s open), the theory says
it could always be worse.

Until it is. Then theory fails,
leaving a tracer mark.
From blood you come to blood
you go. Sudden things happen
inside a frame. A flame is
lit. Look

at those pathetic wiggly squiggles.
Inferno or garden?
An immeasurable distance
sizzles between them.
Watching it all. But taking so little in.
Just what will fit on the flat

of a glass lens. The ticker is hopeful.
Pathetic fallacy.
Look at the numbers move.
The mystery of ticks.
One per second, sixty per Mickey.
Four becomes ten, one in six

bombs falls in a bushel, a basket,
a two o’clock casket. Do you wish to stay
connected? The seen blurs
into the just heard. A bird outside the wide
open window. The warm day
of March. It changes. It has

all changed. The world
as a distracting disaster.
MY, what little SENSE you make, said the wolf
to Mary Jo. The theory rests
on a tipping point.
The clock steps in a direction.

Mary Jo Bang

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

September 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

Charles and Lola

I’ve been feeling very loving toward my cats since I returned from California, even though we now have a second kitty litter a few feet from my bed to prevent Mouchette from being ambushed in her most private moments. Two nights ago Charles and I were ready to go to sleep at the same time, which rarely happens, and Fitzroy and Mouchette were on the bed. Moments after I turned off the light, Lola decided to join us. You can’t blame her for that. We were broadcasting family time and she was out there with the tax returns.

But the bedroom is disputed territory and there was a fight for which my body served as an unfortunate stretch of battleground. It was a hot night and I didn’t have even a sheet over me. Lola ran with her claws out and drew blood at several places on my back, then did it again. Charles got up to shut Lola in the living room and decided to stay there with her so she would feel cared for.

Then at dinner last night, deep into a bottle of Spanish red, he was telling me how I should write all the time, fiction, poetry, blog entry, anything, just write. I remarked that I couldn’t afford to always do that and he said he was sorry he wasn’t looking for a job but he had to try one more time with music. I said that was okay, which it is. Then he told me that his out-of-town girlfriend, whom I call Cynthia, was complaining that she never heard from him anymore. He said, and I quote, “I told her you’d starting writing your blog again and she could read about me there.”

Cynthia is a faithful reader. When I was in a bad way, a few months ago, Charles said she told him she wanted to give me a hug.

I said to Charles, “I’m sure she’d rather hear directly from you.”

“I’m too wrapped up in stuff.”

Okay, here’s the dirt: Charles spends all day on the couch with his guitar and computer and sleeps with his cat at night. I’m never quite sure if he’s here, especially when the air conditioner is going. Otherwise, he does dishes, takes the occasional walk and attempts to make the cats friends by holding Lola in his arms and bringing her progressively closer and closer to Fitzroy and Mouchette. He believes this is working. I make him clean my wounds with peroxide. He seems happy.

Meanwhile, the other other woman in my life, whom I’ll call Felicia, sent me an email recently and ended with “hugs.” She was commenting on this blog. We don’t have a regular correspondence.

So, things are less hurtful, but no less weird. I always liked weird but it’s different when it’s the simple exhalation of me living. The obsessive guitar player may be a dangerous influence. I’m no longer lonely, but I’m not communicating much either. It’s not love that’s lacking, but most of our love passes through the body of a cat before surfacing into language. There’s more I could say but I’m starting to feel like Clint Eastwood.

So my many dears, my wayward kittens, make my day: petition whatever gods you believe in to bring us gentle rains when rains are needed, peace among felines, a Republican defeat in November, and hugs all around.

The weird stuff I deal with as he told me to: write it.

Looking Back in My 81st Year

How did we get to be old ladies—
my grandmother’s job—when we
were the long-leggèd girls?
— Hilma Wolitzer

Instead of marrying the day after graduation,
in spite of freezing on my father’s arm as
here comes the bride struck up,
saying, I’m not sure I want to do this,

I should have taken that fellowship
to the University of Grenoble to examine
the original manuscript
of Stendhal’s unfinished Lucien Leuwen,

I, who had never been west of the Mississippi,
should have crossed the ocean
in third class on the Cunard White Star,
the war just over, the Second World War

when Kilroy was here, that innocent graffito,
two eyes and a nose draped over
a fence line. How could I go?
Passion had locked us together.

Sixty years my lover,
he says he would have waited.
He says he would have sat
where the steamship docked

till the last of the pursers
decamped, and I rushed back
littering the runway with carbon paper . . .
Why didn’t I go? It was fated.

Marriage dizzied us. Hand over hand,
flesh against flesh for the final haul,
we tugged our lifeline through limestone and sand,
lover and long-leggèd girl.

Maxine Kumin

Where Am I?

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