Alphabet City

On the other side of Stuy Town, pronounced
Stoy! Tone! between glugs on a forty of OE
by the skater who was about to rape me,
we climbed a graffitied wall as if the projects were
a Babel you had to risk your feudal life to breach.
How many tongues have I beseeched explaining
who they were and who I was and why I’d go
inside an elevator sclerotic with White
Owl smoke and ride so far up into a fable
I couldn’t tell a baby’s squall from a suicide?
My panic button’s eye had been gouged out.
I had to grope my way through corridors
shook with fuck music using only the blown
wires hanging from my sockets into the squalid
bedroom overlooking east New York,
all the little windows tarpatched into the dark
attempting to impart how fearful and dizzy ‘tis 
to cast one’s eyes so low, and still I said:
There is a cliff… Bring me to the very brim of it.
Did I fear finally for my life once confined?
Or wretched in despair forget how and shaking
my great affliction off fall back to the busted
mattress on the floor, its sprung spring rusted
to gouge a measurable inch in my innermost
thigh? Did I know I wouldn’t die? Could I
have guessed how long I’d have to lie there
staring at the ceiling crack observing
myself my soul escape my skin sulfured
by the searchlight tower’s Stalinist glow—
twenty-five years of, where did she go?
was it my fault? who were her clear gods?
did they cut off her ears that I might hear You?

Danielle Chapman

Danielle Chapman

Danielle Chapman is the author of Delinquent Palaces (Northwestern University Press, 2015). Her essays and criticism can be found in The Oxford American, Commonweal, and Poetry. She teaches Shakespeare and creative writing at Yale.
Danielle Chapman

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Author: Danielle Chapman

Danielle Chapman is the author of Delinquent Palaces (Northwestern University Press, 2015). Her essays and criticism can be found in The Oxford American, Commonweal, and Poetry. She teaches Shakespeare and creative writing at Yale.