For Hannah Upp*
my mind’s in its usual fugue
wading through the lurid borderlands of sleep
past neon monasteries and bombed-out bedrooms
an epiphany here
a howl over there
all loin-deep in the stagnant soup
of New York harbor before Giuliani
or Earth before God
whose touch is this
caress my arm
Consciousness slowly comes into focus.
In the alarm clock’s blue glare,
a ladybug marches up my shoulder,
then lifts her wings and vanishes.
It’s 4:26 AM. It’s 34 degrees outside. I am 18 years old.
The agony of credits rolling after a movie.
Slumped over the windowsill,
I try to recall a face, a scrap of conversation,
a landscape. They’re drowned out
by the rumble of the radiator, as it begins
its own inscrutable schedule,
the dry hissing and spitting portending
yet another morning.
* a 23-year-old New York teacher who disappeared and was found a week later, floating in New York Harbor, apparently suffering from dissociative fugue
The Great Plains
They hover persistently in the corners of my eyes-
those rippling expanses of purple and gold
I’ve seen on TV.
I was raised by the raging Northeast,
the jagged jaws of New England’s coast
and the huddled masses of Queens Boulevard.
All I know of the heartland
are the serene squares, the quilt
that covers the middle of the American map,
the Zen-like simplicity of their borders:
this is Kansas, this is Nebraska.
I once fell asleep with my atlas,
imagining that the counties of Iowa
were the old books on my grandfather’s shelf,
standing in resolute rows,
waiting to be explored.