Posted tagged ‘sonnets’

Relocation

April 27, 2010

“London” can be read on pp. 126-127 of heart speech this (Atropos Press, 2009, ISBN 9 780982 530948)

a flurry of breaths—“London” is scattered across the page like breaths snatched between words. It’s a sonnet in a series of sonnets (“Joy” and “Syncope” are also in heart speech this) I wrote as I grew into a place I thought would never fit.

Tell me why I stay here—My first year in New York, I broke yet another of my “I’m not going to do that” promises. I had vowed never to live on the East Coast and especially not in a city as thick and dense and over-stimulated as this. I wanted mountains, ocean, desert, and space. Spareness and horizon. And of course I found myself driving from Oregon to Pennsylvania in the space of a week, first south through the Siskiyous and then east across the deserts, the Divide, the sudden clusters of townships and hills, soybean fields and trees.

the frenzy for crumbs shouldering brothers to curbs—I was not prepared for the city despite visits in the ‘80s, despite traveling and living in US and European cities in earlier parts of my life. Six years in forested, rivered Oregon had dulled my agility. I had lost the sense of crowds, the athleticism required for hip checks, blocking, taking a charge.

fringed with vain shadows obscuring the light—There was a moment of horror when I stepped onto the subway car and saw a pool of blood on the seat I’d been ready to grab. Moments of utter confusion when directions and lines and numbers/letters had no pattern or system internally mapped—the constant shifting, running, and straining to hear/see were like bodysurfing in riptides, pulled off my feet and tangled in waves, kelp, sand, and rocks.

surround me with pigeons fluffing their breasts—the first place I’ve lived where strangers start conversations in the middle, speaking to anyone close enough to address, blurting out intimate and unrelated observations and complaints. So much reaching for connection, posturing for attention, and offered simply for the pleasure of being a little larger in the crowd, of making the city of knots on a string more like lace than measurement.

savoring haste over hunger—“You don’t like the city very much, do you?” observed one of my French students when I shared this poem in class. And I was surprised, because I did like the city, in the way one likes family one can’t live with but always feels affection for, the mutual agreement to love the differences one can’t understand but tolerates for deeper connections.

Offer me tastes I’ll refuse to forget—There are people who love the gulping nature of this place, the ravenous energy to get, make, and be more. And I have not escaped. Yet I love those days, those minutes, when there is something truly, truly slow, some ache that develops into emptiness and then desire that rumbles inside and makes embarrassing comments, like the stranger standing next to me as we wait for the train.

to long for this din—and yet “London”, which is about London as well as New York and all these cities of stink and staleness and compressed sights and sounds, tells me I can learn to live anywhere and love the place I’m in, just as Helen, in whose series “London” crowds, learned her cities and shock and elbow room.

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