POETRY BY ALIKI BARNSTONE
I TAKE THE STATEN ISLAND FERRY TO MEET YOU IN THE CITY
"Come here," she says in Texas drawl. "Come see."
Tourists lean against the rail of the Staten Island Ferry,
pull up their hoods against even the balmy November air,
dance a cold dance on the deck.
She points quarter-activated binoculars at the Lady's torch and crown,
at the lights of Manhattan, skyscrapers rising from a core of night,
a diamond silently shooting stars and rainbows onto a shadowed wall.
"Ya gotta see this."
"You assume and assume wrong," says man to boyfriend.
"Heard wrong. I didn't say that."
I guess the water's hissing now.
I guess the water's lapping it up with its cat's tongue.
"Hurry up," says Texas. "I got a quarter for ya. Look! Focus."
He complies, passionless, won't make her happy,
won't see the city in her eyes, won't feel her turned on
by the wind's rough skin on her face or the surge in her limbs
as she scales blazing towers. "Listen! This is not a postcard.
Not a photograph. You'll never see it like this."
She spins toward him, then away,
her red coat a cape that would tempt a bull
if there were one, if he weren't a roly-poly guy in a silly hunter's hat,
shuffling a little. "Okay," says boyfriend, "Okay."
And the two men look out toward Manhattan, forearms on the rail,
hands in prayer, muscular asses identically cocked.
The quarter moon glows between the Statue of Liberty
and the mirror-moon shaped arc of the Bayonne Bridge's blue lights.
Last time I saw you you said you were glad I came. Last time
you said I looked gorgeous in my coat. Midnight blue.
I look good in night colors, I guess,
with taxis speeding down Houston and lit-up signs telling the truth,
how to be beautiful, be up-to-the minute stylish, stay healthy,
buy jewels as talismans for eternal love or dial 1-800-DIVORCE.
Yeah, they make you want
to climb up to those slicked blow-job lips and straddle them
and fuck them until perfection and fucking be them.
How will it be now, my love? After the crowds
rub against my midnight coat, after the city air blends in my blush
so you can't tell my healthy cheeks are make-believe.
When you pull me to you on the street
where people and cars pass by fast, solid then ghost,
and when you kiss me as you have so many times in our marriage,
what will you see? Will you see diamonds everywhere?
Streetlights, lighted windows, headlights,
our eyes returning the light?
* * *
MY GHOST LOOKS FOR YOU
My ghost hangs out on the
sidewalk in Wilmington
where the boulevard leads from the highway to your old neighborhood.
She's shuffling past the station where we gassed up our cars
to see each other.
Her shirt is inside out and her socks don't match.
She's smeared a paste of kisses and come and tears
on her face and hair.
She's painted her lips and lined her eyes with the ink of your pen.
My black bra crowns her head.
She muddies her shoes on the banks of the Brandywine river,
feeds Canada geese the bread of her body,
drunk on the wine of your love.
The autumn sky is a blue bowl cracked with thin clouds.
She lies on the ground and waits
for winter, for the full moon
to frost streets and signs and houses with its sexual light.
There below the broad-trunked oak we made love in glassy air,
your leather jacket creaking a little,
your tender hand beneath my neck,
roots digging their thumbs into my back,
mist of our breathing glowing under a moon-slicked
mandala of branches, shiver of limbs, map of intimate nerves.
She stands outside the building where once you lived,
cocks her head to read the titles of your books,
lies on the bed where you tied me with the gold cord of trust
as raindrops slapped fallen leaves.
She sails out across the window of rain,
its wind-spackled sea, shimmies
up a telephone pole, tightropes across its wires,
and surveys the highways we traveled to leave all this
and find ourselves here,
within driving distance from the end of the earth.
Barnstone's recent books include Madly in Love (Carnegie
Mellon, 1997), poems, and Voice of Light: Spiritual and Visionary
Poems by Women Around the World from Ancient Sumeria to Now,
an anthology. Her new book of poems, Wild With It, is
forthcoming with the Sheep Meadow Press in 2002. Her poems have appear
in The New England Review, New Letters, The Southern
Review, TriQuarterly, and elsewhere. She is Professor at
in the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
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