Under Grand Central's tattered vault —maybe half a dozen electric stars still lit— one saxophone blew, and a sheer black scrim billowed over some minor constellation under repair. Then, on Broadway, red wings in a storefront tableau, lustrous, the live macaws preening, beaks opening and closing like those animated knives that unfold all night in jewelers' windows. For sale, glass eyes turned outward toward the rain, the birds lined up like the endless flowers and cheap gems, the makeshift tables of secondhand magazines and shoes the hawkers eye while they shelter in the doorways of banks. So many pockets and paper cups and hands reeled over the weight of that glittered pavement, and at 103rd a woman reached to me across the wet roof of a stranger's car and said, I'm Carlotta, I'm hungry. She was only asking for change, so I don't know why I took her hand. The rooftops were glowing above us, enormous, crystalline, a second city lit from within. That night a man on the downtown local stood up and said, My name is Ezekiel, I am a poet, and my poem this evening is called fall. He stood up straight to recite, a child reminded of his posture by the gravity of his text, his hands hidden in the pockets of his coat. Love is protected, he said, the way leaves are packed in snow, the rubies of fall. God is protecting the jewel of love for us. He didn't ask for anything, but I gave him all the change left in my pocket, and the man beside me, impulsive, moved, gave Ezekiel his watch. It wasn't an expensive watch, I don't even know if it worked, but the poet started, then walked away as if so much good fortune must be hurried away from, before anyone realizes it's a mistake. Carlotta, her stocking cap glazed like feathers in the rain, under the radiant towers, the floodlit ramparts, must have wondered at my impulse to touch her, which was like touching myself, the way your own hand feels when you hold it because you want to feel contained. She said, You get home safe now, you hear? In the same way Ezekiel turned back to the benevolent stranger. I will write a poem for you tomorrow, he said. The poem I will write will go like this: Our ancestors are replenishing the jewel of love for us.
Mark Doty - 1953-
1. Peony silks, in wax-light: that petal-sheen, gold or apricot or rose candled into- what to call it, lumina, aurora, aureole? About gowns, the Old Masters, were they ever wrong? This penitent Magdalen's wrapped in a yellow so voluptuous she seems to wear all she's renounced; this boy angel isn't touching the ground, but his billow of yardage refers not to heaven but to pleasure's textures, the tactile sheers and voiles and tulles which weren't made to adorn the soul. Eternity's plainly nude; the naked here and now longs for a little dressing up. And though they seem to prefer the invisible, every saint in the gallery flaunts an improbable tumble of drapery, a nearly audible liquidity (bright brass embroidery, satin's violin-sheen) raveled around the body's plain prose; exquisite (dis?)guises; poetry, music, clothes. 2. Nothing needs to be this lavish. Even the words I'd choose for these leaves; intricate, stippled, foxed, tortoise, mottled, splotched -jeweled adjectives for a forest by Fabergé, all cloisonné and enamel, a yellow grove golden in its gleaming couture, brass buttons tumbling to the floor. Who's it for? Who's the audience for this bravura? Maybe the world's just trompe l'oeil, appearances laid out to dazzle the eye; who could see through this to any world beyond forms? Maybe the costume's the whole show, all of revelation we'll be offered. So? Show me what's not a world of appearances. Autumn's a grand old drag in torched and tumbled chiffon striking her weary pose. Talk about your mellow fruitfulness! Smoky alto, thou hast thy music, too; unforgettable, those October damasks, the dazzling kimono worn, dishabille, uncountable curtain calls in these footlights' dusky, flattering rose. The world's made fabulous by fabulous clothes.