Before the Mudslide
The tram, swaying above the slab of 59th Street,
let out a howl, rain scratching at its war-painted side.
Black, fat slashes of spray-can; those itchy words
"Jesus Saves Souls" on that metal body; the rain trying
to scrape off layers of growl, grime,
gang rape, but there it all clung.
You and I, we swung up the exit stairs,
never having ridden this bird.
We thought it would be glorious, like the ferry... wind whipping,
like Whitman... mouths open to dusk, like ski lifts... shimmying.
But inside that thin hulk
the city flattened into a grim work-ward.
Commuters... silent blocks of badly chiseled rock;
Not granite, not marble. Bland.
The rain wasn't washing away the grains of grumpy late night shifts.
The rain was the rain was the rain.
We were out of it, at least.
But, there on the bench, facing the bridge,
cold fries in a bag, we heard the moan of minutes,
we heard the bang of hunger,
we heard the grunt of cables.
And we stood,
down those same exit stairs
towards the nearest drowning hole.
It was the night I lost my last finger hold
on that pedestal I used to gloat upon.
Down I slid, past the man on a stretcher and the fire trucks,
past the chained-up shop of red goblets,
past the phone in my pocket ringing bad news,
past the crammed, cozy studio apartment of my married gentle ones,
past, past, Past
all crumbled away
as I fell
into your arms
arms that were reaching for my zipper
and the cigarette dangled from your lips to mine
and the smoke whirled around my world
until I couldn't see the tram or the sidewalk or your eyes.
That is when I swept below myself and found
one small seed planted in the bank
near the dam, near the damn, near the broken dam
before the mudslide.