They & The Village

A completed five-section longform poem for the November Read Write Poem mini-challenge; the theme is a day wandering in and around Greenwich Village in Manhattan, one of my favorite places in the world. Equal parts memory, supposition, and desire. Circular. Hope you like it! (The sections – you can tell where they’re set off by indentation – are subtitled “Avalon”, “Magnolia”, “The Square”, “Fringe”, and “Seventh Avenue”.)

They & The Village

where they are going, they don’t know:
she rises out of the littoral plain, neo-Gothic, welcoming,
semi-consecrated whore of Babylon and Mary at once,

her doors open like a mouth, like a chasm
and they glide in, enchanted, still lost in the dream
that gripped them as soon as they clambered from the subway,
they follow the beacon of her barbed wire, her stained glass
and her drumbeat circulation:

shirts stripped and buttons undone,
they are moving in time with emanations of wisdom
vibrating through the dancefloor: she has blessed them,
this place they named for the Island of Apples,
the place of forbidden fruit, the knowledge of
what boys do in shadowy corners, of waistband etiquette,

of genuflecting in alleyways and morning after rituals,
when they stumble into the street,
                              blinded by sunrise
they turn to the southwest, to the Village
where there is shade and the humming city

paths go crooked when the street breaks in two,
borders of fabulous kingdoms traversed by these:
avatars of Adonis, amorous archangels,
guided by the ley lines of cracked sidewalks,
used condom wrappers in the flowerbeds
empty dime bags decorating the roots of sycamores,

they come at last to a corner of reality:

sucking on water bottles with the E still highlighting
their brains, they stare into the windows of the shop,
moist multicolored snowscape gazing back
and tempting them with less guilty pleasures
than the night before: buttercream sins and
confectioners’ seductions,

a fairy cake for each, dissolving on their tongues
as they dissolve in each other’s arms complacent,
beautiful and content: having sweetly soothed
savage beasts and having thought that
what makes life really
                     all worth it is this
the shadow of the arch bowing over the trees
doing battle with the iridescent surface of the fountain,
smoking pot by the trunk of the Hangman’s Elm,
trading stories with the old muttering men at the tables
who stare at them sidelong
gazes tracing the path of a bishop to where they sit:

they could be outcasts from the university
who dream of Ginsberg’s glory days, who worship Snyder
and Kerouac in walking meditations that are bare feet,
cold cement, scribbling haiku in Moleskines

itinerant dreamers with mismatched eyes and spiked collars:
angular and aquiline as exotic fauna on the jungle floor

doing handsprings and backflips while the taxicabs pass
and they have no obligations beyond the moment,
the four elements and the passage of time,
no desires save those that rustle through the branches
descending lazily as mapleseeds upon their brains:

there is amnesia in the afternoon air, and meditation
spirals outward, the Age of Discovery, the questioning of
who they are and who
                      they might become
is entirely up to you, you who are armed with the latest Voice
and the feline strut of fashion

you who are transient among the transients,
with twenties in your pocket that will be the lifeblood
of the box office and the gallery, the hole in the wall
where they exchange carnival masks for a bit of expression:
you will see them on the stage, or before the canvas,
perhaps on a twilit fire escape, trysts unsullied
by lamplight

you who have sauntered into their lives from SoHo boutiques,
you who are still weighed down by trinkets from Pearl River
and late dinners off the Bowery, you who spend your weekends
veiled by the sterile beauty of the Met and pretending
the Park is an untamed wilderness, you come to their homeland

demanding a bit of shock culture, some Day-Glo and industrial
design, shrieked verse with an epileptic refrain,
a theatre that is unashamed to strip down, to fuck for
your pleasure, performances of raw meat and bruises:
you define yourself by contrasting yourself to their frenzy

but the Maenads tire of the zoo, pet dervishes
longing to be understood not regarded, and after curtain call
they sit backstage of backstage, opiating,
murmuring in their jackets still wet from a day of pleasure,
meandering towards the north and discussing
why even bother with
                              this futile ecstasy
subject to the spreading of self along convection
currents that lost souls are heir to: but
joy is its own reward, live fast, die young, stay beautiful:
they are waiting to be canonized by brownstone pontiffs

meanwhile they will look out from cafe windows
stirring tripleshots with one finger and flirting with
shaggy-haired baristas testing the seams of European trousers,
they will whisper in code of the energy of the Earth
electrifying the nervous body to illuminate the night and

stepping outside onto the street, watching the traffic
roll up Greenwich, tracing the curb of Eleventh and
climbing trees on the Green, they wander to the borders,
the northern edge of their kingdom, neon aurora borealis
sleepless in that distance where they could reach nirvana:

but they were made to be nightcrawlers, prowling Aladdin’s cave
so instead they descend into the underworld of the train,
Orphic hands clasped over the Stygian third rail
certain only that they will emerge, burrowing through spacetime:
where they are going, they don’t know

4 thoughts on “They & The Village

  1. Minerva says:

    I really love this–the circular nature of it is really hypnotic, it’s like it beckons you to begin reading again. It makes me want to go back to New York and find the things I missed the last few times. And I want a cupcake. :)

  2. Matthew says:

    Love the way you connected the pieces of this together; beautiful construction.

    And I think you’re right: this would work pretty well expanded into a chapbook, but man it goes down smooth just like it is.

    Great stuff.

  3. I knew why I liked your poetry.. I just love Edna St Vincent Millay,and Dylan Thomas
    Have you read any of William Carlos Williams?

    love-M

  4. [...] is still out on whether or not to do another long form poem. To longform, or not to longform? After They and the Village, I want to test if I have the [...]

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