Roy is eighty years old and from Honduras.
He has lived in the same Brooklyn brownstone for fifty years.
“I can’t move,” he says. “This was where I lived with my wife.
I turn in bed and she’s not there. But this is where she used to be.”
He points to a wrapped bouquet of flowers on the stoop.
His Jeep Cherokee with two-tone leather seats is spotless,
Parked on the curb, shining in crocodile green.
“I visit her grave every week, never once missed a Friday.”
I see him sweeping his bluestone sidewalk in the fall.
In winter, we shovel the same snow.
He just came back from Honduras after burying his sister.
“I’m the youngest of five. My mother lived to be a hundred.
My sister was two years older than me.”
He points to the place on his index finger
Where the nail meets the flesh, saying,
“We were como uña y carne.”
We run into each other on summer mornings
He is on his way to the candy store for his morning paper
I’m on my way to the library where I write
In a quiet room, the rhythm of the graphite
On the surface of the paper
Almost like another person’s breath.
I pray, dear Lord,
To draft and scribble
Until the day You say, “Quit!”
And summon me to
The main library halls
To reassess my writ
Oh, let my work
(Wherein I praise Your creation)
Find grace when your angels read it
And let not St. Peter
That grouchy librarian
Stamp it A WASTE OF SQUID
The highway starts humming at four
The birds in the trees at five
And then I
A neighbor called to say,
Could I move my Ford, a day in May?
For a scene in a superhero movie
They need to vacate the lot
“A superhero who can’t move a truck?”
In a heartbeat,
We will long for winter
But spring is the only season we hope for
And then I
Superhero of poetry, coffee, and all the rest.
Tug the pull chain, green light on the desk.
In New York
Cats and dogs
But it could be
Love left for another continent
And for weeks, the notebooks have been piling up
On the kitchen table.
Outside the window,
At seven-thirty, the cardinal sings his tune
To remind the world, I assume
That breakfast is overdue.
I’m reading the ABC of Achebe, Bukowski, Camus
Dotting down, in red and blue, sequences of particular musicality.
At sunset, the first glass of wine is exquisite
The second is the name on the label
After that, it’s like doing someone else’s homework.
There was a writer named Günter Grass
Who knew all about der, die und das
His ethics and morals
Won prices and laurels
As he spent a lifetime rewriting his past.
I thank Thee, Lord, for spring in New York
And for sidewalks scattered with gloves
For three new construction sites down the block
And for strangers to piss me off
For neighbors smoking on fire escapes
At three o’clock in the morn’
Life in a city that never sleeps —
A life of kind-hearted ignoring
I thank Thee, Lord, for the BQE
For buses of tourists hoping to see
Which it would be
Were it not for them
(not for me)
Oh, I thank Thee, Lord, for spring in New York
Where writers in their 30s write memories
Eating 30 dollar sustainable pork
And drink Pinot Noir out of Ball jars
I thank Thee for the kids in Underwood Park
Who cry, “Let’s play Barack Obama”
I wouldn’t have experienced that today
If my neighbor had been a dirt farmer
Oh, Lord, one more thing, before I forget
I thank Thee for aerodynamics
What New Yorkers need, time and again,
Is to fly off and assess the damage