BREAK OF DAY, THE GREAT CITY [EXCERPT]
Django is watching Joy sweep up in the garden.
The sweeping stops and he looks around, then
Back, as if hoping it will begin again.
Is she even out there anymore?
There, moving some plants around.
A blur to him through the lace of the curtains.
Now he goes to the window and paws up the pane
To peek through, then gets down and shuffles away
Before I can look up while writing this down.
Into the bedroom for a nap.
In this same silence I am reading a novel.
I lay in bed not tired anymore
But not wanting to get up,
Trying to think of something to read that would get me
Out of bed.
I thought of Henry Miller, but the middle of
Lyn Hejinian, no.
Book of poetry, no.
The new James Salter.
Remembered a girl I was excited about
Who brought Salter up, asking me if I knew him,
And right there I thought maybe
But then she said she’d read an essay he wrote on writing
And didn’t like it.
That was a falling.
All day and night little fallings throughout the city,
People failing each other gently, disappointing.
Yesterday three complete meals out:
Breakfast with a friend’s wife visiting the city,
Lunch with an old girlfriend,
Dinner with girlfriend and family.
At all three the same complaints, variations on the same theme:
Coffee, eggs, bloody Mary
Arugula & tomato salad, lobster bisque—Is this lobster piss?--
“Sawyer” soju cocktail, Old Overholt Old Fashioned,
Glenlivet neat at the family’s brownstone
Girlfriend’s sister explains the difference between neat
And straight-up. Straight up now tell me, I remember that song.
Earlier the old girlfriend explained
That a “bisque” did not require chunks of lobster meat, as those were a
You sent it away, not even caring if you had to pay.
And in this fashion you went from I to you to what to then to how to no to
yes to so.
Met the old girlfriend’s new baby daughter.
Alex? you asked, thinking of the boyfriend in college you stole her away from.
No, Alice, like Wonderland.
Big baby blue eyes—is this where we get “baby blue”?
You tickled the bottom of her feet, so smooth, like booties
But actual feet. She almost died of Infant Botulism.
You thought what you heard was Infant Botticellism,
Maybe a disease of splendiferous fatness.
The romance of the city, I out there youing it,
Running to meet the old girlfriend for lunch because you were late,
Remembering how once you ran to meet her
After your first long separation over Christmas.
Salter on the page, cruising through the turns
Of his prose, evoking Break of Day, The Great City.
Only a master can execute those chapters.
And now more insistent sunlight through the windows,
A harshness, and as if on cue the grinding of the workers outside commences.
Those days we’d go to yoga, then get Huevos a la Mexicana
At Eclipse, the one gentrified restaurant on 4th Avenue.
If we paid to get chorizo scrambled in, the eggs were perfect.
You worked at a small studio on 36th, the first yoga studio
In the neighborhood, which struggled to attract non-white students.
We were a sign the neighborhood was changing. We were,
In fact, probably helping to kill it. But it didn’t feel like that.
You put so much planning into your classes, all the expert details
Proliferating in my body. Spent hours constructing playlists
To go with the poses. I met you as you auditioned for Jenya,
Whose Jivamukti ways scared you a little, the two of us the only
Students in her class. Everything was effortless on your mat.
Afterward we talked outside and I noticed your eyes, the green
In them picked out by the light. You laughed and lingered.
I dragged myself out of bed to go to your 7 AM class in the cold
One morning, hoping to see you alone, but you didn’t show up.
No one had been coming and you begged me to come so you wouldn’t
Have to spend another morning alone wrapped in blankets
On the studio floor. Then when somebody finally showed up
(Me), you didn’t. You felt guilty, so, sensing my opportunity,
I got you to agree to have coffee. Our whole relationship grew
From that guilt. When I picked you up I was extra dressed up
And you seemed taken aback, calling me “fancy.” You wore
Ripped jeans and your mom’s old corduroy coat, one leather button
Hanging by a thread. I said I always dressed like that for work,
But that wasn’t true. We took the train to Colson Patisserie
In Park Slope because there was no coffee shop in Sunset Park.
We sat outside in a slight drizzle sprinkling through the sun.
Finally moved inside when the rain got to be too much.
We talked for two hours, mostly about yoga, poetry, painting,
Van Gogh and Cezanne in particular. You said you hated
Hopper and Monet. Not once did you bring up the someone
You supposedly were seeing. I knew then that it was a lie.
is the author of two collections of poetry,
America's Favorite Poem
Man on Extremely Small Island
. An assistant teaching professor of English at Quinnipiac University, Koo is also the founder and executive director of
and creator of
. He lives in Brooklyn.
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