Washington Square, 2020

From my window, I see the world
without us in it: a vacant park,
a silver maple sheltering no reader;

a cherry tree dressed like a bride betrayed,
her wedding canceled; a dogwood tree
whose whites will fall without regretful eyes.

No baby strollers; no candy wrappers
stuffed in bins; just a sign, “NO bicycles,”
and memories of skateboard pirouettes.

Around us, death: the numbers spin the mind.
Fever dreams. The last breath held, alone.
I had not thought death had undone so many.

That Summer

Joy began with a cerulean sky
and breaths of grass, sweeter than subway odors.
My mind was playing over the warm hard runs

of Sonny Rollins on tenor sax,
in rhythm with the roll of a wooden pier,
brash kids beside me, gleaming wet in sun.

Urgent yet serene, his tones kept hidden
what I’d read of his early addiction.
Crime, jail. Overcome. No lasting harm.

Lifted, perhaps, by someone’s sturdy arms.
Savoring the single notes and lulls,
risking the wild delight of his “Gazelle,”

I knifed into the lake, seemingly tranquil,
limpid, with emerald weeds. A sudden whirl
pulled me around. I swam, steering upward,

Moon Plant

Satiny moons shine out and summon memory:
an egret’s luminous wing, your dinghy’s sail.
Moon plant, lunaria rediviva,
a weed unplanned, with persistent roots.

Peel off the shell and find transparent screens,
the filmy parchment for suibokuga,
a Japanese art: brush dipped in suma ink
and stroked so that no wrong line

could cut through. No second chances.
I hear moons ring like silver dollars
stamped with a rare promise:

In God We Trust. Airy moons endure,
stripped to their naked skins and vulnerable,
though still intact. Each a blank screen. For hope.

Alive and Well:
Tomb Sculptures In the Staglieno Cemetery

Genoa, Italy

1 Angel

So this is death, lifelike in marble
and unconsoling, on a merchant’s tomb.
No man with a scythe, no man at all,
but her, slim-hipped in an airy gown

nipped at the waist. On the high breast
one hand rests, the slender fingers
limp, waiting to beckon or direct,
come-hither lips — barbed wings.

The eyes translucent, clear lakes
you want to fathom, but the gaze
says, I don’t want to be known
or understood. Angel of cold passion.

Moment in Rapallo

Your mind went double, like these two brass doorknobs
that lead into your house. I tried one. Locked.
Years past you had unlocked my mind to hear

language charged with meaning, and to feel
that sense of sudden growth, and as for rhythm,
the churn, the loom,

the spinning wheel, the oar.

An old scribe quotes King Solomon:
God created our organs in duplicate,
two hearts, two minds.

For you, two loyalties.

No pure homage, then, these lines go double
for the mind that battened on division
as it winced and stirred:

I pictured you

Remembering Harold Bloom

When I heard the news, my hand fumbled for the phone. Harold’s wife, Jeanne, told me he’d died that morning, just a few hours earlier. At work to the last, he had taught his Yale students the Thursday before, went to the hospital on Friday, and succumbed the following Monday. His body was spent, his thoughts still razor-sharp.