New Yorker reject

brick windows, PDX

Downtown on errands a few days ago with my camera, I remembered a building with which I will now illustrate a poem sent to the New Yorker a while back in a moment of daring. The author (I) was in a lower, sadder place then. But that's what poetry is for, no?

Census Year

These nights I sleep at three or four,
awake in the silent hours after the trains howl past,
the cat circled on your pillow,
wet leaves in the teapot,
a candle stub flaming towards entropy.

In a dream you stood on a dry dune
watching as the tide ebbed,
while I in my high rubber boots
scuffed at the froth
of an imagined surf.

At the sea bottom
fish swim through the eyes of sailors,
the molded bisque sockets gazing up through the indigo
toward faintest motes of sun.

They say a trilobite’s eyes were stones,
the calcite of bluffs and monuments purified
into crystal prisms,
their sisters pearls.

Downtown on the faces of old-storied buildings
arched window fronts hang in the air,
their panes filled with brick
while on this side of the river,
posted before the tracks
a sign warns of remote-controlled operators—
steel owls racing blind through the dark.


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