Down Cumberland the kiddie pools have been emptied, deflated, dragged indoors and the old trees are lingering with slow leaves as dusk catches up inch by inch. Past the steepled church of dark red brick that stretches up into the twilight kind of streetlight and its sign that jokes: “Sign broken. Come inside for message,” which has been up for months — past the church at the end of the block the cobblestones begin, stumbling their wide way left and right up Trenton. The uneven sidewalk leads from stoop to stoop, and the houses loom up together, tall with gilded numbers, faded American flags, planters with the vestiges of blooms, windows with cats and conversation pieces and handmade bows. Down Cumberland the men stride out of doors with medium-sized dogs and the women sit out and talk loudly about work while smoking cigarettes, and the ice cream truck makes it last sad attempt at luring customers as its nursery tune fades around the corner, and the kids hide from their fathers at the end of the block until they are called with a holler. And when everything becomes quiet in Fishtown, you can hear the wind begin the season as it takes the first leaf down.

(Poets & Writers’ prompt was to write a piece about a street name. I chose my own — sorry this is late, Gagan! <3)


when the sky was hung
with ten suns
(the story begins)
that terrible era of ash

& air so thick of bone
& spice of ginger root
how they got there emblazed
until all was yellow and grey

no one knew not even
the blind crones with
wood for teeth banging

bowls at their feet
the days of ten suns
precluded no night

no relief of blooming jasmine
wrung around a lattice
rivers & wells shriveled
to scorch of hair

to clap of dry thunder
& fusing metals
all the land a hostage

but nine too many —
farmers shook their
glistening heads

phoenixes drifted out of
cages trailing soot
& no love-making occurred

throughout all those years
generations at a stand-still
it is possible to die

from too much light
possible the obliteration of
entire chronicles of war

of nations by nine suns
too many, so to begin
new histories of rancor

even then, she says
from her lunar perch
in which shadow melts
into shadow

even then was a time
though of no resplendence
of something material:
fever & strange winds

& stranger cravings
for fruit & tears &
docile daughters

until her husband
archer among the ranks
of men, with his ardent bow
and arrow struck straight

the nine oppressive orbs
(which ones counterfeit?)
& they came tumbling fast
down to Earth smothered to ash

& the grasses grew
& horses cantered by streams
swelling up again the banks
& oceans fierce with tide

the moon is no comfort
how I would’ve died then,
she says, for a stretch of
twilight, but the journey

was inexorable —
the elixir mistakenly swallowed,
the rise and pull up into
celestial abyss, black hair
streaming in vertigo
of absence

which is the same
vertigo now as she sits
under the leafless cherry tree
sprouting from luminescence

of moon rock,
where the Earth from afar
is so changing and blue
here where dark and light are
one and the same darkness

(P.S. Wifey, I think it’s interesting [or predictable?] we both titled our poems the names of our folktale women, and that they also both have inner monologues. <3)



Dated: 2/26/06

I’m going to make a movie someday. And in it – I can only see so well what will be in it. I imagine there will be much walking, the way people walk and think no one in the world is watching, or that everyone on the block is focused intently on the saddle of the hip, the length of the stride. The complete self-consciousness of one foot in front of the other, the skin of ankle exposed to sun. And I was thinking – there are certain people you have seen only at night, and could never imagine their skin touched by daylight: an aura would burst, crumple, or englaze itself around clothing as if you had never seen them in this way before. Without the tight smoke of night. And there will be the hot pressure of summer night and the rumble of the car on a green block, sweaty bands singing about departures and backseats. That was the summer I imagined to look back on, but that I never had – a white magnolia drenched summer with the lover’s lawn open and spread like a warm hand. A window and hair trailing wildly, I wanted that. And if only I had something more special to say, that only she wanted to listen to. Well there will be a road glistening with heat and the smell of wheat or barley, the smell of draught-dried grass hitting the face without apologies, without apologies. I guess maybe this was a song, a conglomerate of songs that were never truly listened to, because when you strip the music the words scatter and are left behind losing speed to the rumble of the engine. And maybe a movie will bring them back. The glaze of the screen will enshrine them in a dank way, the way old café lights look like how musk would smell. This must all be in it, everything I can see now. And there is not a moment to lose, not even a small one, not the second of crossing through the wet grass. Not the paper cut, the congregating birds behind the fence, the pluck that was so essential. There is a restaurant called pizzicato, you know. That was summer, too. And so was smoking in the heat under the big umbrella, watching the tourists pass and the midday go slow. There will be a church, yes, a place outside of our city, but not quaint. We were never quaint. It would be old and smelling of closet, the closets we played in between the open inside of the house and the sprawling dappled green that spilled from the brick stairs. Back and forth, crossing the empty hazy streets.

“Is this what you want?”

Your hands, I knew. And that will be in a movie, too, the way I saw them, the way I measured the distance between the centers of your eyes. Now I forget the number, but it isn’t important. The distance swept naturally across the points of brown, I followed the markings studiously. But how to remember these things? You were sitting on the couch, breathing. Your instrument was at your feet, a sheath of black.

No, we have to go back. You were sitting on the couch, breathing. You were breathing and did not know it, but I knew it.

Photo by Karen Christine Hubbard: Violin cases at Caras 


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