the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night


Fall 2008



Barry Wallenstein


When presented a shot of whisky,
single malt and easy down,
I tip back
and tip back twice
and tell the tender bend his elbow
and on his way erase the frown.

Conversation floats on another night
and it's gin this time and just as fine
surrounding an ice, ready as sin;
double the dose for kindness
with a leaf of mint, drop of lime—
and the barmaid's smile is lovely.

Pastis is a tasty glide, Pernod too
at home and in the public spaces:
half of this and half of water
and it seems the healthiest kind of gesture.
That's just my tastes: an old man
dolled up and speaking like a boy.

Late at night it's Cognac dear
and I say dear alone and in company.
Wisdom — well — you're dead if you do
and equally deep if you don't,
so I sip my imbibitions eternal.
After all I've taken in and more,

I'm begging you, old Reaper,
when you show up in your hood,
you thief in the form of a shadow,
leave the lectures home,
let me empty the glass
and your stroke be swift and clean.

(from Barry Wallenstein's CD Pandemonium)


Tony Practices

being awake
not just eyes open and steady
but on the mark
get ready and should
gun go pop, go fast
as if fleet foot
the famous hound from hell
were panting down the path.

He practices
bob and weave
to skirt the corners
of tiny dooms
and the larger unspeakable errors.

He also practices threading needles
in breezy weather
and then he practices deeper
sewing split seams on a skirt
of someone
to gain her favor—
he mends the damage
on item after item in her drawer.

He practices greeting her
before she arrives.
He opens his arms and everything.
He does it everywhere excepting
in front of the mirror,
and when she arrives
sweaty after her run,
he continues on
and with greater concentration.



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