the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Michael T. Young

Keeping a Dry Notebook

Walking to the subway
it started to rain and I could see
the first clues of gray light pooling
in low points of the sidewalk,
varying depths of refinement which,
for all the past ages of disclosure,
were no less significant, cupping
their hungers to the clouded troughs.
And I began to run, to weave
through the crowd, looking for
the closest enclosure, the nearest
place to pull out my notebook,
and document the gathering revelations.
I could feel oblivion nipping
at my feet, memory about to
betray me, as if I advanced only
at the cost of each step, a halting
momentum crippling my progress
but renewing the thought, the drive
toward the end of the walkway
where the awning was, the dry landings
where the escalators went down
to the trains, down to the tunnels
and the long tracks through the dark.


Going Into Hibernation

Mulberry leaves brown at the tips
     while their green palms turn waxy in the afternoon light.
Whether dogwood, maple or birch,
     trees threaten to lose everything as the summer ends,
and things get desperate:
     a boy up the street nudged a dead squirrel
while he held his dog back.
     I'm pigheaded, persisting in wearing sandals
even as the chill hardens my skin right under the nail,
     and we gather from drawers and closets
shorts and light cotton shirts to store in the basement,
     then pull out sweaters and coats and heavy blankets
to shore up against the days and nights and backyard shade
     dropping deeper in the thermometer's throat,
at which time I exchange beer for wine — or maybe brandy,
     and each day I wake
wondering if the morning glories have trumpeted their last along the fence.
     And maybe, this time, there will be other transformations:
a kind of embrace
     in which I'll remove from the office wall the Hokusai painting
and replace it with Rembrandt,
     or I'll listen less to Bach and more to Mahler,
smothering myself in the dark warmth of adagio and painted shade,
     wrapped and sustained by a lavish hoarding of notes
in slow, colorful descent.



This time is not the whole mountain range
traced on a heart monitor, but only
the peak, the blip, a sound like water
tapping out Morse code in lightless caverns,
moments between drops: a suspense,
a drama of intervals between prehistory
and the earth's convulsive lava, too early
in the plot for character development,
these catacombs like a fiery washer, crushing
and remaking under its sliding plates
everything from the ego to the oldest rocks
which long ago died and were resurrected
into the newest fashions, so every style
is a comeback, a return to something
so outdated no one alive remembers
or can tell its connection to two women
sharing not only their daily irritations —
the parking ticket, the nasty bank teller —
but a menstrual cycle, which was already
in line with the moon and the tides
of their different births, or my wife and I
waking from dreams to find our different
nocturnal circuses hosted by the same
ringmaster spinning on his heels, lively,
flickering, casting into the audience
flecks of gratitude old as the earth.



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