the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




David Francis

Abel's Studio

It was a beautiful night like this
with views of the Biblical city
with the same possibilities
of women, poetry and destiny
but unlike Brooklyn
it was ringed with a mountain range
invisible but for the lights

and we climbed
the steep hurtful ladder,
Abel leading,
giving distinctive and expansive vantages
of the twin-towered cathedral
but always hemmed in by the mountains
and the same uncountable lights

and the thin streets
with their Nativity-scene stillness
revealing through passages of moments and
shifting levels
figures and somnambulistic cars
deserted again
emphasizing our eagle-like solitude

and so
with the frivolity down below
locked up, far away,
the bars, Maestranza Street,
Juan-Carlos's cafe, remorse
of the cheap stripped gold
and the humidity-hid stars above

we descended
the iron ungiving ladder,
Abel following,
to see the framed photographs
of his parents, and of the smiling young woman
who used to live there
before the "trial separation"

and he drew back the drop cloth on
a brilliant-colored mural
with caricatures of local artists
and the judges who sat on committees;
"This is my work-in-progress," he whispered,
"which if it was shown
or by some fluke discovered

I would have to leave town forever."




Seeking a dryer
on the lower tier
in the bunched-up area
with the clock on the wall
that is always ten minutes slow,
blasting Chinese radio,
behind the one that is plain good-looking,
her figure intact, her face not haggard,
I heard a high woman's-range sung note
which lingered above the tedium.


Shortly afterward
in the canyon of the sidewalk
a young black man sang
"It's too late…
it's too late";
our eyes, darting, met
like a scissors
fallen apart.

Though his was aloud,
I sang the same lyric.


A Jewish girl was in the laundromat
singing prettily
a tune made doleful by its minor chords
her mouth was closed like a ventriloquist
transferring her clothes from the steel-meshed carts

putting quarters in several machines
pouring detergent in the little cup
a load of her whole woman-fated life

I wanted to say "how lovely you sing"
but instead I succumbed to grief's shyness
and perhaps that's what the song was about



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