Weekend Poetry: New York Morning, Six Years On and other poems

Cooking with Butter

For the unction of arborio.

For ecological disaster will devour me in time.

For the puritan in me has a nagging mouth, and I must stuff it with gold.

For by butter’s foam I’ve known the spread of offshore wealth.

For the fish adheres to it.

For the acupuncture of butter on fish’s skin.

For the erotics of my death and the mortification of my sex.

For the hand slips, as with salt or gin.

 

For my parents fear it as they might a pimp.

For the state is weak and money strong.

For mushrooms bloat with it and render flavour.

For the cow knows more than I know what I want.

For an omelette is important, its softness to be nurtured,  

and the grave will give my protein in return.

 

Near Historical Swoon

Rotten lily, swollen tide: the smell, the shape, the guttering light

of years I held so cheap for seeming close. This near past, this blindness

equal to desire: how I would clutch its bulk and breathe its musk

and shiver, could I only trap it, only trace its smoking spore.

 

Whole years that danced and fled before me, leaving less

to know them by than childhood hours, those long days which

have mantled now, becoming history, their protagonist as fixed

and partly known as Caesar’s wars. If nostalgia cuddles and provides,

 

it can’t be that. This is visitation from the lost land close behind,

the space vacated every time I take my step. Uncanny valley,

whose inhabitants are awkward cousins to our present selves:

its laws and languages, the broadcasts on its radio resemble ours

 

except in all the minor ways they don’t. I hear the dying bars

of a summer anthem from five years ago. Protests in the central square

of the capital city of a bad regime with whom we dealt in arms

and will again: less than a memory, the spectral flavour of it

 

catches in my throat. Street food, candle wax and sleeping bag.

To meet again the hope you thought was gone, which events

as they unfolded overtook. I was never there. Watching from afar,

I thought that spring would hold, and save me from the man

 

I was: a homebound drifter shuffling laps around the park,

his government embroiled in vested sleaze, all hopes for what

he’d come to be not far removed from what would pass,

but far enough the deficit will make him swoon.

 

Contact Again

You needed your sleep so I let you,

collapsed against me like a bag

which may or may not have held

an incendiary device. Snoozing

 

stranger, while the night bus filled

and you tossed and turned to find

the meat between my shoulder

and my neck, I was a tingling

 

grid, my dormant nerves

fizzing to your presumption,

as when a tongue first wriggled over mine

in a kiss embarked on for a dare

 

or lately at a new salon

when after the cut I was led

to a marble basin and my head

was lowered in the groove.

 

Her massage worked up from

the base, consent far less solicited

than given, and scarcely knowing

what to do I thanked her,

 

as tonight I thanked your straying

hair, for reminding me that touch

is only touch when skin arrives

at knowledge that it didn’t have before. 

 

New York Morning, Six Years On

The manhole on 53rd snorts a bower of steam

around the tilted couple smooching through a shameless PDA

 

that’s got the cabbies honking wedding marches,

tugging on their horns. Have I succeeded so far

 

in having you on? That poem of place you thought I’d botched

is coming back for season two, as a classier brand of porn.

 

Allow me to mansplain. On arrival in New York you’ll note

the pace of life that turns routine commutes into a high

 

stakes hockey match. I learned this to my cost, all over

again this rush hour morn, as I held my hot drip close

 

and nibbled my muffin, snug beneath a tech bro’s arm,

an obtrusive foreign dork. Hey, buddy – hey, how about a knife

 

and fork? I could’ve sworn I heard him quip. I was dashing

to MoMA to meet my friend for her law firm’s yearly perk,

 

where they open the doors two hours before the schmucks

pile in to gawp. Ambulating lordly through the empty gallery

 

I only rued the way they’d moved Picasso’s Demoiselles

to a corner where, if you didn’t know, you could’ve missed

 

those groovy belles. Otherwise I had a blast. My friend left

at 9 for work, and with an hour still left before the hordes

 

I caught the Rauschenberg. To think the last time I was here

I was clueless to his shtick; to think I thought New York would gift

 

its secrets to me, a hick. A wide-eyed rube, an ingénue, a limey

flâneur prick. I blush through Bob’s Black Mountain years

 

and hit the Fulton room. A pile of trash and bric-a-brac,

it tells me what to say: No taste / No object / No idea. I’m more

 

than six years late. His buddy Cage still sounds a scream

and he’s sixty years in date. The infinite postmodern wince,

 

the cabinets of crap. The world we just appropriate,

the passé-ness of that. They’re dancing but not dancing

 

strapped with chairs across their backs. The paintings sprout with grit

and shirts and taxidermy gags. I’m rushing through, I need the loo,

 

I’m airless and bereft. I’m doomed to lust for coloured silks,

for the little meaning left. My syntax is ripped and pathetically fixed,

 

I’ve nothing to offer you, Bobby. You didn’t catch my first book

but you’d think it so twee and sloppy. I sang the song of avenues

 

you captured with a tyre track. I had sleepless nights over mixed

reviews that patiently listed my drawbacks. Hyperventilating,

 

caked in mud, I sprint through the last installations,

and run out then left and collapse on Fifth, where Trump

 

Tower grins through the morning. Bathed in a glancing

plutocrat sun, I feel like I’ll never stop falling. The city

 

swarms over me, crackle and dirt, a pitiless grinding signal.

It doesn’t love me or help me up. It pulps me to beef on its griddle.

 

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