"BE YOUR OWN MASTER!" says the Vedanta Society sign. Why not?…In the park Some clouds roll over me like Greenland on a map. If I wanted to I could imagine I was flying over The Greenland coast and gazing down at the white fjords. Instead I'm lying on the grass, listening to city sounds. They come to me in three-dimensional form, Like a loaf of Wonder Bread. Baby carriages squeak Near the middle. Cars humming through Central Park, Somewhere near the back of the loaf. What sound would be the end-piece, the round brown sliver? The unzipping of airline bags. Or a glove thwacked By a rookie pitcher who falls apart In the eighth inning. The manager takes the ball silently, Like a man who has eaten a full loaf of bread And has a stomach pain. Don't glamorize silence. There is nothing profound about quiet, it is usually Only the universe holding its stomach. Delmore Schwartz must have been a great talker. They say he put most of his talent into his life But I don't know, I think his prose is pretty great; He made a better storywriter than a poet. I could write a thousand-page biography Propounding that stance, and interview all the old rummy Critics who are powerful now; They would let their hair down about Delmore, And the final crackup. The reason I'm thinking of Delmore Schwartz is that He wrote a poem about city parks. And it wasn't that successful, It went on for about twelve pages, but I admired him For writing a poem with so little point, And so much prosy description. I think he was trying to Eulogize normal middle-class happiness on a Sunday afternoon, And how he felt out of it. But that wouldn't have Taken twelve pages…He was probably being ironic About the people's happiness, and secretly thought They weren't happy. He wrote it about the same time Robert Moses was carving out his parks empire By forcing the Long Island millionaires to give up their privacy So that the middle class could get to the beach. Of course it was also supposed to benefit The poor slum-dwellers, but how many of them Ever made it to Sunken Meadows? Or Jones Beach? What's strange about parks—innocent greenery— Is that no one ever suspected them to ruin New York. Yet what finally gutted the city were the parkways Moses built, slashed through all five boroughs Quiet lower-middle-class neighborhoods bulldozed For cars to get to the picnic grounds faster, Or the Hamptons— A life of paperwork capped by a summer home. But I can't blame them: I'd like a summer home myself! I don't really believe New York is dying, no more than The universe is dying. I have no stake in seeing This poem end pessimistically. I'd like to leave people with a good feeling. Robert Moses, Delmore Schwartz. Two ambitious Jews, like myself. They tried to be their own masters… It's hard to imagine New York going under On a slow summer day like today Without even a loud noise to mark it Like the Empire State Building keeling over And everyone running to the scene of default. The helicopters will be standing by, Ready to take us to Greenland. A special airlift for poetic men of letters, A jumbo Boeing crammed to the teeth, And you can't get in if your name isn't Listed in Poets and Writers Directory. "So long, New York School of Poets!" I'll stay behind, tending the weeds And sleeping in deserted Central Park. Soon I'll be hearing about the Godthaab School: Their seemingly infinite talent for "chatty brilliance," Buddhism, and marathon readings. I'll shake my head and sigh: What are Anne and Michael doing now? How was this year's big Halloween party, Or do they even celebrate Halloween in Greenland? Maybe they're into solstice holidays, like Midsummer Night.
Phillip Lopate - 1943-
In 200 years they won't remember me, Salvador And they won't remember you, so let's skip the part about He will live with us forever. You may get a footnote for being the only Marxist To gain power in Latin America via parliamentary means; And the only sucker not to throw his enemies in jail. You knew the power of the large land-owners, ITT, The Army, U.S. Anaconda, the small frightened businessmen Easily manipulated, the shop-owners who could go either way And yet you didn't lift a finger to silence them. You continued to defend the bicameral system of government Until they bombed your palace and you shot yourself in the mouth. Answer me this, Now that you are a bunch of hairs on a blood-stained sofa: I want to know why you killed yourself. Because this was a very un-Marxist thing to do. Because neither was this the way of a gradualist With short graying hair and glasses, and a face like a prominent surgeon's, Who, knowing this would happen, could have easily arranged for The secret tunnel, the private plane, the unmarked car In which you, huddled in grandmotherly wig, might begin To write your memoirs. Was it too horrible to think of Speaking at New York rallies to pockets of émigrés, Forming shadow cabinets, and lunching with Juan Bosch Or Andreas Papandreou, swapping stories over wine about Where you were when the shit hit the fan? I'm being vulgar, forgive me. I would rather believe in your doggish retreat Than the flamboyance of today's headlines which gloat: MARXIST REPORTED TO TAKE HIS LIFE. Even they are a little unsure. They leave room for the graduate students Of the left, working in the carrels of libraries For 100 years to discover the link, The way it all fits together: Lumumba, King, Kennedy, Allende, CIA. And it may turn out that my government actually murdered you But what's the good of knowing that? We know too many connections already, and they only satisfy The pedantic urge that makes the world a crossword puzzle. Salvador, I'm sorry, I don't know what to say any more. Take back the bullet, it was a mistake, it redeems nothing. Today I look at the faces of passers-by and I think: It figures. The banks have the money to buy counter- revolution, This wino has no money. He's nice enough, so is That girl in the flamingo summer dress on wobbly heels. It's September 12, possibly the prettiest day of the year. The blue has never been so pure around the chimneys— "Almost like—a cartoon!" says the dental hygienist, Grasping for a metaphor. I never said it even to myself, Before today, but just between you and me, And I don't want anyone else to hear: Senor. It looks as if they have got us by the balls. These faces in the street, how can they take power? How can they rule?