the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night


Spring 2013



Tim Liardet

Laws of Probability

Which means, I continued, my train had to break down
in the extreme north of Uttar Pradesh and offer up in gasps

the one-in-seven-hundred-million chance I'd run into you
sitting beneath that ceiling fan, turning your glass in your fingers

a thousand metres from where the engine stopped
ten miles from Lucknow, five thousand two hundred and eighty-two

from that rainy English town and place of learning that
fastened itself to the both of us like a clam, its moss in our socks…

Because so unlikely, you replied, dependent on
the variables of time and space, quanta, the heat

and number of people strolling down the track set against
the number leaving the tea room and at what rate;

because it was dependent, you said, on
exactly how long it took you first to blow cool, then drink your tea,

how long it took me to stroll back down the track;
because it depended on the vagaries of metal fatigue

that meant the crankshaft of this old blustering Lister
decided like a peevish animal it had had enough of work

at that exact moment, that angle of the sun;
because it depended as much upon the time it took the one of us

to ease down from Kashmir on bus and bike at that rate
to this mozzie-infested station, the other to edge

his way towards it across the Great Syrian Desert at that speed,
Oh yes, you said (…looking up and grinning subversively

beneath your wide mathematician's hat),
it was all but impossible to avoid each other.


Liuba Descending a Carriage

After Duchamp

The Russian concierge is wearing out
a stretch of tawdry carriage carpet
with softer and softer steps–or else
the weave from which the pattern's

mostly worn away is wearing away
the soles which steady her against
the carriage's motion—fade on fade,
she follows her many selves slowly,

her walking backwards and forwards
sole evidence of time passing;
when she swivels on her heel, she must
collide with every ghost of her

and pass through them one by one:
the way she sighs, the way a step
yields to the next and is overtaken,
how she rests her mouth, her several mouths,

every time she turns. And look at her hands
draped in her loins, how her thumbs
encircle one another constantly.
They leave a small propeller on the air.


A Dream of Fair Cyclists

I did not know the place you told me of
existed: perhaps it was the place
that had-not-yet invented bicycle lamps,
or a town so very far to the north

it could only be imagined, a town in which
the bicyclists cycled about the square
with their lamps turned off—in it you could hear
the hum of wheels and expeditious tick

of a single leaf caught in the spokes,
or the purr of a sweet machine which nonetheless
had no lamp, no dynamo from which
a beam could be thrown against the dark,

across the square or the road ahead.
By then, so vividly dreamt, the bicyclists become
the workings of the mind itself,
all adjusting aim miraculously

to avoid one another. They criss-cross
the darkest of town squares, though blind.
They hum past my ears. They swing parabolas
into wider and wider night.


A Beggar in St. Petersburg

Less beggar, less street beggar
than the bleached banner
of himself, he slings it around him. It
copiously wraps him in the rhetoric

of hunger, and he tenders his cap:
today (… if you could but lip-
read above the traffic noise) has not been a good day
for the man who tries to tell us so,

pale eyes, long neck and remote
pupils shrunk to a pinpoint, those great boots
shy of the hems and remnants of what
was once a quality, double-breasted suit

without socks, without laces, the cut
of the jacket on its button threads pulled tight
over his horse-bones — his eyes deep set,
a mouthful of whistles under his breath …

Every day, every day when
the trams rattle overhead and trains flash under,
he redreams his spot
on the Nevsky Prospekt with an egg in his pocket

and like a seller of wares—ghost of his own skin—
rebuilds his seven-foot man
out of stones, ball joints, elbows and pinstripes
there at the crumbling pit face of light.



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