BEFORE AND AFTER
Hard not to speak in elegies, so we are silent as we walk home from the film that has shown us there's no future in our history. We aren't ready for mass transit; we want to hear the sound our feet make on the pavement. It's 10:30 but the square's still rowdy, storefronts pulsing electric, street lamps burning
holes in the night, the great White Way that one day
will go dark because the play has ended. I steer us toward Astor Place and we stand by the wall of the sub station. There, I say, pointing to a slice of moon behind the Chrysler Building's terraced crown. Wads of cloud migrate with the slow purpose of East River barges or sea ice melting. We are not sleepy. We stand in a square named for a robber baron among a late-night crowd
in their vagabond shoes. Under our feet
engines rumble and air brakes squeal. Someone asks if we are lost.
you lost your perch—
the balcony of a Tuscan palazzo,
ceiling of a Baroque church,
or a Roman bridge that saw
centurions on the march—
and landed in a bed of ivy
in the gardens
of the Brooklyn Museum.
No, there’s more artifice than that:
a curator placed you
where green would frame
your alabaster curls
and you are laughing
at the soft, unexpected landing,
lips open, wings touching
the new growth of purple iris.
But your wings
are cracked at the shoulder joint.
Your journey’s over,
mine’s about to start.
And when the tour
of dead masters ends,
you are still there, the laughing cherub.
“Cheer up. You’ll survive.