Joan Gelfand, “Poets House Walk”

Across Brooklyn in a city dense
With watery dreams, a procession
Of crazy lovers strike out
To hear poetry recited mid-span.
Hum of traffic roars approval.

Toward DUMBO through the mist
Poets, strivers, drivers, divers
Graying profs, groupies, gurus hoof it,
To see hundred-year-old Kunitz carouse.

We stalk poetry across the bridge
In a town distracted, manufacturing
Your next thrill, and your next.

Bicycle tires tharump over
Old pocked, trampled wood.
Rush of water slaps girders
Shivers of bridge as wet drops
Shatter against metal deck.

The jig was up. It rained.
All readings canceled.

Finally, torrents gave way
To June light, shadow slant
Wide angles of cable, long stripes
Falling across beaten planks.
In the absence of poems,
Gorgeous geometry,
Engineering, poetry, and the wonder
Of holding things aloft.

Joan Gelfand will be reading at the Jefferson Market Library tonight at 5:30 p.m. with local poets Jane Ormerod, Toni Quest, and Karen Hildebrand in an event sponsored by the Women’s National Book Association (of which Gelfand is the former president). Other poems from A Dreamer’s Guide to Cities and Streams include “Venezia,” “Summer,” “Cupid,” and “Torqued Torus” (all in Poetry, the last in substantially different form as “Torqued—for Richard Serra”). There’s also three poems at

6 June 2011 | poetry |

David Rivard, “How Else to Say It”


And the guilt that must be got rid of
all one’s life
how does my neighbor feel about that?
these appearing but feckless days
vain or proud
with riverine lavender & lupine in hand
a true lion of Judah is what
he is
while waiting for a light snow cover
and insulin
there’s slush on his G-Unit sneakers
muffin crumbs on his scarf
an aging incendiary
cosmopolitan but unfussy
back from an early morning Mass
and Holy Communion.

How else to say it
except that it’s not such a bad way to make a living
bringing home
some sign as unshakeable as ashes
on this particular Ash Wednesday’s forehead
the quiet clear reminder of a smudged thumbprint
above his eyes
but in those eyes
a shine like the feeling inexplicable
to anyone lacking the sweet understanding
of a dog in boyhood
that to pee against the mossed bark of Juniper pine
is to be real in your soul.

Otherwise Elsewhere is the fifth collection of poems by David Rivard. You can read “Forehead” and “Lives” at Rivard’s website; the Academy of American Poets has “Plural Happiness.” The collection also includes “Townie Gossip (Since You Asked)” (AGNI Online)” and, of course, “Otherwise Elsewhere” (although the version published in American Poetry Review is markedly different than the one in the book). And the literary website Numéro Cinq posted four more poems.

“What I’ve always been interested in is moods—my own and the world’s,” Rivard said in a 2006 interview, “and, often, that is about as close to subject matter as I can get now. And anyway, our emotional lives are so complicated, rich, and full of illusions and blind spots. So the purpose of writing a poem in some ways is to be surprised by discovering this thing that you didn’t know about yourself or the world. In that case, the stories you tell yourself are the least interesting thing about you. And almost always untrue. Or not true enough.”

19 May 2011 | poetry |

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