The screen, as if to view me were forbidden.
The robe, rubbed thin by bodies it has hidden.
The plywood platform costumed in a sheet
adorned with bottles and a sheaf of wheat.
The half-lit room, its easels in two rows,
each with a stranger waiting for the pose.
My hands like dead weight dangling at each side.
Though I might wish for one, no place to hide.
My hope: to be a shape in air, a gesture,
to meet nobody’s eyes while the professor
moves me into place. His studied hand
which tugs my arm and shows me how to stand.
The spotlight flooding half my flesh with heat.
My other side in shadow. My cold feet.
And at the break, their sketches on display,
each with a different angle to convey,
sum up the profile, belly, hips and thighs
of somebody I barely recognize.
The Trip to Brooklyn Misremembered as a Roller Coaster Ride
Lock your doors, they’d say. Look straight ahead.
Every other Saturday we’d travel
from Long Island to Grandma’s house in Brooklyn,
my parents anxiously accelerating
through neighborhoods they’d gladly left behind.
In the backseat, secretly, we thrilled
with vertigo, craning our necks to gape
at tenements and billboards. We admired
the smashed out windows and oily graffiti--
so much more satisfying than the misdeeds
we dared dream up. Buckled in the backseat,
we drowsed, secure. But once Dad took a wrong turn
past a cemetery—not the first I’d seen,
but enormous: rows and rows of headstones
in strict formation, interspersed by obelisks
and mausoleums dreadful in their heaviness.
A graveyard gray and scalloped as the ocean
and seemingly as endless, stretching on
for blocks until I couldn’t help but know:
the dead were gaining on the living, soon
they would be everywhere. I squinched my eyes
and counted ten but when I peeked we still
were driving past tombstones that grew more ancient,
pale and straight at first, but later crooked,
dark with car exhaust, ground down by age--
the way our grandmother kept growing shorter--
the city underground crowded with bodies
like the one above, each skeleton
waiting in its windowless apartment,
and everyone I’d ever grow to love
would wind up buried here. Our Buick climbed
the ramp onto the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway,
a clackety, steep track. Chains scraped us onward,
grinding toward a peak high as a skyscraper--
a long pause—then the sudden giddy plunge,
the naugehyde seats falling out beneath us.
We hovered, breathless, bracing for the drop.
This collision of teeth, of tongues and lips,
is like feeling for the door
in a strange room, blindfolded.
He imagines he knows her
after four dates, both of them taking pains
to laugh correctly, to make eye contact.
She thinks at least this long first kiss
postpones the moment she'll have to face
four white walls, the kitchen table,
its bowl of dried petals and nutmeg husks,
the jaunty yellow vase with one jaunty bloom,
the answering machine's one bloodshot eye.
And here are some of my poems on line:
At The Academy of American Poets website.
At The Poetry Foundation.
At Mezzo Cammin.
At Verse Daily.
At Apple Valley Review.
Here's a video at Able Muse.
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