"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-
1. Our room, says the lady of the house is nicer than one in a motel and she's right second-storey bay windows a mushy double bed T.V. and sportsman and gun magazines 2. We'll take it But not the meal plan. 3. It turns out she is an alcoholic 4. Those circular curtain rods are a nice personal touch she must have put a lot of work into this house... we settle down to make love on a chair the dependable thrill of foreign rooms, positions violating good people's rugs 5. I stroke your legs and breasts as you straddle me 6. We bring out the Polaroid take pictures of our bodies relaxed Just lean against the radiator, your back to the sun a smile of bones dissolving I squeeze the knob until it says YES 7. But you always manage to take three more pictures of me than I do of you 8. We must take a stroll in the woods before the sun goes down you slip out while I am reading and drive to the country store bringing back Vermont cheese, bread for sandwiches, Utica beer and Tasty Cups For this I love you you even get undressed again so we can both snack in bed with the crumbs falling between us 9. We'll never see Vermont this way up and dressed for our 5 o'clock walk— the hills above us make us laugh they're all so pretty! and we don't laugh that easily with my arm around your waist it seems child's play to live with you breathe in the electric air what has happened to all our demands don't even think about them if you kiss my left ear lobe and lick the other one I'll be as happy as 10. The sun is dying on the sharp points of the tree-tops not just disappearing soon we'll have to go back to the car, it's getting cold 11. I can't resist—I surprise you with a snowball The snow dribbles onto your bare breasts now you have ‘snowy breasts' 12. Dinner is delicious! We compliment each other for walking out of that expensive Auberge down the road and saying no to The Reluctant Panther This one is moderate but certainly as good as the others! We listen with delight as people in the next room are being turned away Thank goodness we made our reservations just in time! ‘Try the banana-loaf bread' ‘I can't believe these lamb chops!' greasing our teeth and fingers into the bone Families of skiers clomp into the dining room study menus, talking about the slopes Most have fat asses and need the exercise But they are ordering everything! lobster with roast beef and pie What could be more fun than eating! they cry a hearty meal after a long day outdoors is justice. Mother and daughter look-alikes That girl could be pretty if she lost fifteen pounds Now you know what she'll be like at forty. 13. At night you fall asleep and I stay up to read nothing on television 14. The next day—clouds, a little somber we wake up leisurely and dawdle over breakfast in the trucker's diner you seem apprehensive while I play record after record on the jukebox that morning you came into our room I was stretched across the double-bed "Guess what?" you announced—beaming, dramatic— "I started my period." Now you're having second thoughts about it? Very well, an honest discussion let's take stock of our lives by all means, say what's on your mind... this too is part of vacations 15. We have found a woods that is really private Fresh-cut lumber, a carrot smell— on the ground wood shavings, snow, pine cones and animal tracks (deer hooves) I want to go where it's completely hooded away from the trail live like an animal between the spaces of trees you are afraid that the ice will crack you would go, you say, if you had better boots a difference of opinion We sit cautiously on a pile of snow What, are you shivering? like a maniac I reach into your pants with chilling fingers so that you will be warmer and you shudder at the cheap power I have over you to make you sigh 16. The good mood regained 17. Looking at the Green Mountains from a roadside promontory Peru, Vermont— The Woman Thinks: This is a place to raise children live correctly come to peace with myself The Man Thinks: perfect landscape of mountains, firs and snow I toss a snowball into the purest fields to see if this is a beauty that mars easily or deserves my worship 18. Coda When we were standing before the mountains the sun leaking pools on the snowy fields the hard quiet of the barn and the owner's house the watchdog's bark sky so intense we could only look through a crack in our lids and yet everything was blue— how little I've been able to take with me back one week in the city