the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night


Spring 2013



Howard Wright


High, well-stocked shelves of cool new American poets
luxuriating in fine bindings while coffee percolates
and upholstery deepens for the unread unlucky older ones,

this Barnes and Noble mansion of air-conditioned books
unapproachable across the eight-lane freeway, its heat-
tremble twenty miles in all directions with no crossing place,

no path to this oasis, and no bridge to the tottering hotels,
the tip-driven flyblown restaurants and irradiated
fenced-off vacant lots; sidewalks and no walking, turnpikes

with no turning — you need go no distance before thinking
of home. Home: a mirage of blue skies and bungalows;
white walls loved by the gods, and louche swimming pools

lined with insect cadavers and regret. Every day, at any hour,
free from the government satellites deep in the void,
all you can eat is the best it gets, no queuing necessary.

More shopping and sleeping might intrude, certainly sex with
the television; mostly though it's a living death paid for
at the super-mall twinned with a same-sized suburb in France.


The Hard Bed

I dozed on, even though the heavy curtains didn't meet. A blade
of sunlight made its way through the gap to the floor,
crept along the duvet and got me up eventually. James Bond
never had it so good. I looked over the park. This was expensive

and therefore divorced from reality: architecture for every victory
and poverty in every purpose. There were joggers,
and joggers with dogs, and dogs in prams, and dog walkers
like miniature charioteers on the paths short-circuiting the trees.

Start a war to stop a war, said a wall, and back from the shower —
the mystery of a woman in the morning — you read my thoughts,
the furniture closed in, and the things I couldn't see behind

that face were bad, then worse — a white cat and world domination —
until beauty was gone, and the big hard bed
gave the impression I never was, that we had never been.



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