the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Carl Rosenstock

"Lord, I Wonder What Fool It Was…"

In the half light of a half empty bar
In your eyes     in the late afternoon
we sit across from each other

and you look off     I see continents
at another table another face
nothing in particular     countries shorelines

I can only dimly discern     and then you turn your gaze
back and as your gaze catches mine     like the uncharted spaces
you ask what     on old maps where dragons

filled the oceans     and I can't answer as drinks
spill over hours     and angels fluttered above the key
And as the chatter gets louder we move closer

to hear each other shift and move     No this won't do
these words so well rehearsed     around saying something
and saying so little     Say instead in this

foreign country     I could as soon hold a river
as hold you so close and hold on     grace falls from leaves as you flicker
to laughter to silence
     so long to any realized thought

With your tongue     The scent of you will linger
with me for hours
     in my mouth I lose     in the half light
all sense of perspective     of this half-empty bar.


Leviticus, XXV, 28

I can hear in your words you fear the story
That you won't let go, that you've told
Often and over in other words,
That like all you must bear alone,
Hoping the while the telling would spare
Someone what no one is ever spared.

Now your shoulders slope, your steps are slower,
But you can't think to let it go no more
Than you could seal a chamber of your heart,
For you fear, like all, being called to account
And found wanting in the lesson that rests
In giving things their proper names,
As if you could heal that oldest of wounds
And restore us to paradise.

I remember once, and I swear this is true,
At the end of a long night, I saw the dawn
Come on — a lone man off to work again,
And that moment was only now.
On that empty street, I fell to my knees.
I carry that moment with me,
Though it was a long time ago.

So take my hand just this one time. Trust me,
You can let it go; and I'll engrave it
In gold on black stone, that you've done
All you could. The world will go on
Like that lone man in rhythm with the sun,
And you can take up your story again.



Walking west along Reade Street       There was a moment
I read of once
       one evening
I saw through the angle of buildings       Light flooded
a valley I had never seen
       and the alignment of clouds
a rough-edged rectangle of white       The writer said
he was altered forever
       in the darkling sky
Nothing more       though the way he told it
made me wonder
       What I saw
as traffic churned north       whether it was so
since it seemed
       up Church Street charging
the air with an unvoiced No       so lightly said
so I couldn't see
       was what I saw



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