S T O R I E S
P O E M S
The Fisher's Tale
B I O
Thirty, twenty-nine, twenty-eight, twenty-seven
not this stop, the next one, the next one.
Just twenty-seven rusty,
are left in our begging bowl
to be spilled in this dirty plunge
under Manhattan whose towers
press on our foreheads, then down
under the clotted black river whose bridge,
so far above, amazed you
by arcing through the airy lights.
These minutes are scattered under Brooklyn
where leftover people stain the street ,
unlike your neat Italian cobblestones -
and on and on, our minutes are crushed
on tracks which smell of burning oil,
they're stolen by broken elevators
and openly thrown away by ticket clerks.
At last I give you my belated song,
my hoarded rainy kisses, my scabbed-over fears
that flowered strangely, locked away so long --
all those olive branches gathered
on our nights of mingled waters,
roughly knotted up in promises.
But they curl, dumb and blackened
in this public heat, this barrage
of Puerto Rican vowels and the drums
of Black boys angry radios.
I try to tell you in Italian
as the shuddering, unreal clamor
carries us along, but the foods
and sweat of nations fill the subway car
between the arms and legs of lives
moving past forever, never touching ours.
Me here, you there,
the twin lasers of our glances lock
and cut through coats and unknown bodies-
the air sizzles, my hair lifts, crackling with despair.
The phantom citizens, in ignorance,
pass unharmed between our eyes.
They wrap us in a gauze bandage
of transparent faces on a ghost train.
Sound recedes to oceanic distances;
and only you and I
are alive and voiceless with pain.
The anxious clocks are the same,
their faces white and round,
but the ritual of the delivery-room
is reversed in the departure lounge.
Their cheerful mouths and pens
cross you off, they take your name
and rush you out of the world
with the others who paid.
Ive spent all my heartbeats in minutes
I can only follow to the wall,
whose door is a rock that divides us-
we who remain -
from the swift river of loved ones.
It cracks the backbone of our embrace
and cuts my breath in half.
On the other side,
your hand on the shatterproof glass
flattens, blood fleeing;
my fingers press near yours,
my five strengthless pilgrims
tremble for your calluses,
attempt to walk again
the rolling country of your palm,
flush and blanch and slip
on my own reflection.
I lean on the ice and you float by
an infinite half-inch ,
an Atlantic ocean, a lifetime away.
Only your ring shines through,
a small light, my promise made,
as you fade out of sight.
Though I taste your salt on my tongue,
you are gone.
The clocks keep ticking,
the air is full of static
and good-byes, arrivederci, Roma, Rome,
and mamas waving gifts
and handkerchiefs, and rumpled men
with careless teeth, theyre going home,
they're going home, theyll meet again,
they fill the windows,
fill the room,
while I alone, without relief
rooted at ground zero,
rocked with grief
begin to burn.
As people turn, my hair smokes,
my fingers curl, my eyes ignite -
Im lightning standing on end,
stopping clocks, running engines in reverse
the floor at my feet burning black to the walls
and beyond -
an expanding ring of fire to the sun,
And to save the world
theyll have to bring
you back again.
Loaded and oiled like a gun, she runs
down rows and rows of lights
shrieking victory, her white tail a butcher knife
above hurtling wings, an endless gathering,
a vast push against the world, against the air,
against my dwindling body on the roof,
a doll left behind in the rush,
a candle on the edge
a white point flickering,
© Li Gardiner