(for Kevin Stokker)
You heard about this magazine that’s supposed to have the best stuff in it
Written by the best writers, most of whom live in Brooklyn, New York and write about Brooklyn as if it is really all there is, unless the magazine sends them to Berlin or L.A. or Vera Cruz to write about art dealers, snarky musicians and astonishing chefs who never wanted to be chefs but, after they got their second Michelin star…
But mostly Brooklyn, which makes you remember your grandparents’ Brighton Beach apartment building that smelled of pot roast and rattled every twelve to eighteen minutes from the elevated subway, which you could see, when your grandmother took you to the roof, slithering over the streets in a steel cage open to the sky.
For you, Brooklyn was two blocks from the ocean and two blocks from the loudest elevated subway train and a few more blocks from Coney Island, and the bumper car ride, the merry-go-round where you could lean way over and grab a brass ring, a roller coaster that was too dangerous for you to ride and Nathan’s Famous where you could have as many hot dogs as you wanted with greasy brown fried potatoes until
your grandfather died and your grandmother moved down to live closer to your mother and told you that she was lucky to leave Brooklyn when she could.
So you’re in a dentist’s office, a barber shop, an automobile repair shop lounge
Or any others place that requires people to sit around for too much of that Slow Time that sounded great in that poem by Keats but now seems to be one long uncertain, unnerving, unsettling wasteland (from a 434-line poem by Eliott that you were supposed to read in college and only remember now as being 434 lines and important)
And you find, on a table, among the worn magazines about cars, guns, sports, home decor, movie stars, how you can have your first billion in two months, abs of steel in two weeks, a home cooked meal in two minutes–
A magazine that is supposed to have the best poems inside!
You open it up
You find a poem
You try to read it
You remember how it was when you were supposed to read The Wasteland and you try harder to read it
You remember how your English teacher spent so much time talking about Slow Time and how understanding some poems can be hard work and you must read them several times before you understand them
So you try even harder to read it
And, though the poem doesn’t appear to be about Brooklyn–
You don’t get it
You don’t get any of it.
You read it again and again and you don’t even know why it was written, much less published in the magazine that’s supposed to have the best stuff in it.
You put the magazine down and you come up with reasons
Were these the last words of a poet who died pitifully in a garett near an elevated subway?
Did the poet and the poetry editor go to a school together? Are they neighbors who visit frequently? Is there a darker relationship whose queasy details will not be revealed until court records are unsealed at the end of this century?
Did the poet not want to be a poet but after winning that second award…
Or, has poetry changed so much from the ornate angels we wrestled in school
That our own glimpses of the divine, which we wrote so carefully, so importantly, so joyously, from inner needs, or because during of a sacred moment when we felt a connection to every poet whose work we loved–
are not poetry anymore?
You close the magazine and toss it back among the others, one more fish that some other fool may catch, and release.
And, just before you’re told about the parts your car needs, the barber turns the chair toward you, or you begin that trudge back into the antiseptic lair of a dentist who you just know will find something wrong and insist on taking a full-set of X-rays–
You tell yourself you’ll continue to write.
Novels, short stories, essays, blogposts and something short that may not rhyme or scan or resemble a poem
About anything but Brooklyn.