It's where we all go, where the dough uprises, becomes bread.
Thirty-and-nine. Scratching my balls at a Ballenchine ballet.
The uncomfortable seats of the old Met; Karinska's costumes
erotic in the dull lighting of the old Met.
Outside, the quick black faces of the street
as if leaves pass along the guttered way.
The siren song, "this is not a test,"
wails in the high notes of a passing soprano.
A child wars against its mother's wrong--
she drags him to shop for a suit at Sak's.
It will be ugly as first suits must be.
It will be coal dark for mother mourning
the last chance to give milk.
It will be tight in the armpits, wide at the waist,
short in the inseam so mother can lift him
up to her kiss, reach into his pants,
see that he's truly her little man.
Have pity on the children bow-tied
white-shirted in winter for church.
"Wha' I cn do fa youse, Johnny,
for penny or nickel or dime
aint it a crime, Johnny, come
along, Johnny, gimme a kiss"
At parkside, the drunk hack beats a gray mare;
a gathering crowd hussahs its reared-up run
into evening headlight and blabbering horn.
All of new York was once full of horseshit.
Now it's just a horse or two, a dime bag of it.
I have become all the dreams I have ever had:
New York at Christmas, anonymity in crowds,
the patron saint of the self, the closet grief
that stares from shuttered eyes. Vacant at muggings.
It is only my accent gives me away.
The tourist who gawks at skyspires
is a phallus lover, a voyeur
of iceskates cutting through ice,
a vagrant among the avant-garde.
But I am repulsive having not made my choice
but arrogant dying among them as one of them
The cabbie's turn of phrase swerves
away from the oblivion of all of us,
attacks display windows, shatters
them with a scream. I am so richer
for it. I want Coney Island; I want
the resurrection of the dead, cream
color mornings of long-ago harvest.
I feel my flesh rising, leg torn from torso
and an arm waving to no one, a cab?
Among the eyewitnesses immediate
flashbulbs of ready journalists, horse guts.
Tombstone photo of first paragraph hero
seen here wading through the tangle
appears on the paperless news five
minutes after and is soon forgotten
amid the sitcom of Holiday shoppers.
Like the after-opera strollers
I want to wake at the appointed time,
and in the place where I fell into sleep;
I want to go home; I want five minutes
more between dry, warm-cuddly sheets.
I want to be alone. Here in the city.
Who have I spoken to? Why do you listen?
The blood of the cabby dries on my hand;
accidents of waking have driven men mad.
Mississippian John Horváth publishes poetry internationally since the 1960s (Streetlight, recently in Burningword Literary Journal (Best of 2018), Adelaide Literary Magazine, Brave Voices (Zimbabwe), London Reader, Subterranean Blue). After Vanderbilt and Florida State universities, Following a bad parachute drop in Iraq leaving him 100% disabled, "Doc" Horváth taught at historically Black colleges. To promote contemporary international poetry, Horváth edited the magazine at www.poetryrepairs.com from 1997 to 2017.