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Who Wrote You?

                Sometimes people remind me of poems. Ones I’ve written, ones I’ve read. I like the ones who make me feel like they were inanimate in a past life: a stanza reincarnated, a song in a new body. There’s a rhythm to such creatures, latent in an action as minute as a blink, but I think it’s noticeable enough if you are watching. We can’t all be poems or songs, but the ones who are, I could listen to all day. They sing, these ones: their blood, their laughter, the music of even a sigh. Little movements, each a poem succinctly.

                “Who wrote you?” I want to ask.

                I spot them on city streets at sunset, during the flux of seasons, summer on the cusp of autumn as the weather gradually mellows, wavering between rain and a steady heat that bears down on me as I take a seat on a worn park bench on a Tuesday evening. There I sit, silent and observing. I like the way they clutch their bags tightly to their chests, carrying an arsenal of mementos: expired Metrocards, assorted identification passes with outdated photographs, a last stick of gum. Summer’s sunglasses now replaced with September’s scarf, soon to be joined by December’s gloves when the air is too nippy to fight with bare hands anymore.

                One such creature leans against a brick wall, a cigarette hanging lopsided out of his bottom lip, the smoke making circles and then dispersing as the wind blows by to carry it on its back. The way he flicks off the little embers is a haiku: a nicotine stick, little droplets of gray ash chased by a coffee. I like the sound of him slurping a Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks. I bet he asked for whip cream. I bet it’s lukewarm by now.

                 Another poem hustles past, one of Bukowski’s Meek looking for an earth to inherit, her footsteps matching the rustles of the leaves that crunch underneath, crisp jigsaws of orange-yellow-greens. She looks like she’s never tasted joy but only day old cheesecake, glasses askew and loose strands of hair coming untucked from behind her ears. Her hand holds a book, maybe non-fiction, maybe a Self Help title on how to break out of a shell others have created for her. I study the way her eyebrows furrow, the image ingrained in my mind’s eye even after she’s already down the block and around the corner. She looks cold, put off by the abruptness of autumn, out of place in a tank top and boots, an ensemble that obviously couldn’t make up its mind in regards to the weather.

                A city bus pulls up across the street and coughs out a swarm of passengers that quickly disband as soon as their feet hit the pavement. One of them has a phone clung to his ear, near enough that I can hear the words falling out of his mouth, desperate tokens. “What do you mean you can’t make it?” he says, heartbroken. “I had it all planned out, you know? We’d go out, and there was this great exhibit at the gallery—no, I know, you hated the last one but this one has completely different features, I just thought we’d…okay. Right, I get it. It’s fine. I’ll just…” He sighs, his voice trailing off. “I’ll go with someone else then.”

                But he won’t go with anyone else. He wanted to go with the him or her on the other line, and in the instant he pouts his lips and proceeds to press the end button on the phone screen, he is now the quintessence of Alone as Poe had written, singular in his love for the gallery, his passions from a spring no one else ventures to drink from. The phone is chucked into his pocket and his eyes water ever so slightly as he leans against the pole of the street light. I watch his eyes as they follow a young couple, the woman of the pair indeed looking like the meaning of a moon, her lipstick evenly applied and shimmering in the twilight, her arms loosely wrapped around a smooth gentleman with slicked hair who can’t seem to take his eyes off her face or his hands off her heart, which he so diligently carries to and fro just as Cummings scribed.

                They pass by gaily, laughter like jingling wind chimes erupting out of their mouths wide-opened and mocking. I drink in the envious tone of his eyes as he glowers at them. I lament the fact that strangers can take another’s love so personally. But then again, I understand it. Around this time, what with Halloween—an occasion that gives way to new identity, if only temporarily—so near, followed by the succession of other holidays that emphasize companionship and family, it is only natural to find oneself blindly clawing the air for a self or a purpose or a significant other. We each seem to turn up empty-handed, finagled out of love by a fraud of a God we only believe in come December.

                But in the Spring, I will remember you, I think. Now I gather my things and shuffle around in hopes of drawing his attention but he notices not. I am, too, a poem. I am the stanza of Audre Lorde, bidding you sit beside me, silent as a breath. I beg that you come softly, that you look into my eyes and understand me on a level unaccomplished by anyone else. “Take me to the gallery,” I want to say. But I am silent. “Sit beside me,” I want to plead. But you will not. I sit here, wishing to show you what sorrow sees, for I have been watching it all. I want to ask if you remember your first life as a Sunday’s stanza, forgetting that, indeed, only those who stay dead shall remember Death.

Overall



You love people, don't you? This feels like you love people, and as misanthropic as I am (or perhaps pretend to be as a hard shell to protect my own soft center), it makes me love people too. I find myself incapable of reviewing this in any objective stance, of stepping away from it, from the first I read it. I found myself wanting to people-watch with you. So few people really do it any more; so few forget what it entails. And all these beautiful strangers you've depicted so clearly here -- they don't realize how much of themselves they give away to someone like you who is quiet and listens so closely to things unsaid. This level of empathy just tugs at me.

On first read, I just got lost in the beauty of this piece. I felt as though I was there, sitting on a bench in a small park in the middle of a city (for some reason this feels NYC; but I realize now on second glance that might be from the "Metrocard" mention – regardless there's nothing beyond that to necessarily peg it to a particular city). The paragraph with the man smoking made me want a cigarette. Congratulations, I guess.

You do get thick with the comma-laden sentences, some of which could probably be broken up, but overall the atmosphere and mood of the piece is quite relaxing and nice, which presents a steady contrast to what I'm sure is the pace of the urban environment observed. The framing, as well, as quite lovely – that you start with poetry and music and then come back to it. You lose some of your thrust in that last paragraph, at the moment when it should really be kicking me in the gut. You start out with a switch to second person, so I'm thinking "who is this you you speak of?" Then the next sentence references "he," and then you're back to "you." It's an ending with gut-punch potential that doesn't quite hit me as hard as I know it could. I'd like to see a little more feistiness with the narration, like: "I'm a poem too, you know" – with maybe a line or two of explanation of that. A little defensiveness. A little "I know this when I see it because I'm the same," if you get what I'm saying.

Overall, I don't know what I'm going on about, I loved the hell out of this.