the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night


Spring 2013



Linda Stern

Broadway Song

Up here on the moon, I unfold
my lawn chair, take out my thermos,
and sit back. Today's your birthday.
With my telescope I look down
at the blue marble, which now seems
much more cool and complex. Up here
it's so simple—black or white, night
or day, dark or light. No little
fig tree and its fig tree shade. Then
I take a drink of whatever
they call this. But I have to say
I miss the grapes, I miss the wine.
How we feasted at a long, rough
table in a courtyard in Greece!
There's never a final good-bye
to slanted light in the morning,
scent of marigolds and lilies.
Floods and floods of you. Yes, I miss
the sweet earth, the blue dimpled lake
where I once learned to float and swim.
Every rock in every canyon.
Every beetle on every tree.
But most of all, I miss Broadway,
with its thousands, no its millions,
of feet in loafers, sneakers, heels.
Some bare—so idealistic!
And the hubbub, with everyone
too fast, going somewhere special.
The latest show, the very hours
in a darkened theater. And I
remember how at the movies
we watched Kansas, bleak as the world
without you, suddenly become
Oz, the Oz of you and me. Here
on the moon, no more make-believe.


Comforting the Mourner

I lift my eyes …
—Psalm 121

He looks up at the metal bird
Hovering low in the city sky.
He looks up there and mouths the word

Attack? When nothing moves on high,
He walks on, thinking of the mole
He found, affronts at work, or why

His son won't call—out on patrol?
It's fireworks tonight, the Fourth.
He weaves around a traffic pole.

The copter, its tail pointing north,
Faintly mutters its rotor sound.
From behind, a young guy strides forth,

His infant trussed up in a mound
Across his chest, his own life vest.
A bum sits, feet splayed on the ground,

Picking off fleas, or doing his best,
His rolled pants showing swollen legs.
Not bum, he hears his wife suggest,

Homeless. The man looks up and begs.
Dogs sniff in tree pits, grimy store
Doorways, trash bags, coffee cup dregs.

Now he gets where he's headed for.
He's in no hurry to be there,
Climb the stairs, push open the door,

To where grief sits numbly and stares.
Losing's the same for everyone.
He no longer hears it up in the air.

He stays until his visit's done.
Nothing new under the nothing new sun.



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