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.
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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Poetry from A. M. Juster