Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Ron Slate Poem (3)

Naked City

Apprehended in Herald Square carrying the head of his sister-in-law
by her sprung hair. Hoop earrings. He said, I’m trapped in a story I heard.
Unsure of motive, the DA couldn’t say where the accused,
striding through the streets, was going.


On victory night, when celebrations erupt,
young men rock a pizza delivery van, striving for something
unprecedented but find no means, no proper subject.
Meanwhile, a videographer shooting a blocked intersection,
violence in her viewfinder, makes
no remark, here where photographers wearing fedoras
once belittled the corpses with tart epithets:

A Bottom Feeder was one who plummeted into a river from a bridge.
A Roast was the shape carried from a blaze.
A man lying in the street after a hit and run was a Flat Mammal.
A Dry Diver leapt from a ledge into the street.

Against the density of darkness, grotesque angle of neck to torso,
the flashgun’s light was so intrusive and swift
the police were printed in odd, feckless positions
as if they’d relinquished control of their bodies.


Even after decades of seeing these things,
explicated with captions of gangland hits and strangled hookers,
the city still gave rise to libidinous visions, couplings
on rooftop gardens, giddy spillage in limousines.
But it was the few words passed quickly,
conventional gestures between strangers,
newspaper vendor and his customer,
that barely kept a timed routine in place.


In the street, below streaming headlines (retaining their own light)
across the façades of commerce, the slightest lapse
of syntax between us could lead to ruin.
Stand back, say nothing for a moment.


We were walking up Broadway — a cab swerved
to avoid another cab and jumped the curb, harming no one,
but knocked in the side of a newspaper stall and startled the seller within.
A man took his child in his arms, we’ve been saved
he said as a page of newsprint shrouded his feet.


Zoom in on a cop’s son crushed under the overturned pizza van.
Everyone move back, move back, move back!


A city is coming,
not the city of the future or the world to come,
but the city of our glimpse and tread.
A city that may not ever be our city.
So proclaims a soiled evangelist with a sign
misspelled with sins as crowds leave
the stadium after a season-ending win.
High spirits, someone tosses him a bag of nuts.


A few inches in today’s paper:
An ancient river has been found, not in our city
but beneath Toronto. A cap blew off an artesian well.
While workers repaired it, another top blew nearby —
the Laurentian River, long surmised
in a soaking valley of bedrock debris,
had exposed itself at last.

Hydrologists could only speak of it, there are no images.
It’s drinkable, with a ferrous tang,
but the water is not its fine excess.
The rumor of discovery is.


Published in Plume Poetry #52 (Oct/Nov 2015)

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