Finally, the weekend! Guys: I needed this like you would not believe.
I finished (again) Lunch Poems on my way home, and some O’Hara — along with some Whitman and Sandburg, I guess — influenced the feel of this one. Miz Quickly’s prompt today was to observe Nature, while yesterday’s Poets and Writers was to write a letter to a landscape, which seemed to go hand-in-hand. And while I struggled with the themes all day, I realized that traveling New Jersey almost end to end was a pretty good source, so this is a little paean for the old home state. It’s kind of wonky and rambly, and doesn’t do a tenth of the justice that I’d like to, but then again, it’s only one poem, written to prompts, and it’s late. Be merciful, I beg you!
The length of you electrified, the breadth of you cast-iron,
mouth sunk deep into one city, tail rattled round another,
what do you think about underneath?
Do you start with a man walking tunnels under the Hudson
to burst out into the Secaucus sunlight, slodging through
marshwater pierced with telephone poles
whose wires dip parabolic underneath an egret’s wing?
Will he say, this is the arrowhead, flung forward, carved
scrap of flint dipping its colonial point
into marine history, extending in a perfect line, industrial
revolution and immigrant tale, feathered with one eye
pointed east into tomorrow’s Atlantic sun?
Who will smell salt air as the cars roam these counties
packed with fine gravel, listen to the mosquitoes buzz
fear of the finchmouth under viaducts
crazyquilted with graffiti, buckling freight, hollowed like
a careful clay gorge? Are they women with moonscape hair,
men with block-letter tattoos, children,
muddied and painted, roaming from stone checkerboards
onto your threadbare fields to execute the last crabapple,
deer stalking the interstate’s shrug
to gnaw a bit of alder shoot? How do they weigh on you,
you who were always slight, the runt, the performer,
the intense gaze, always warmer than
anyone thought, even with vertebrae all full of steel pins,
your limbs catalogued and the ospreys tagged, your feet
shod wooden and dipped in Delaware Bay?
When spring comes fierce and yellow, dogwoods hang up
chandeliers in all your roofless parlors, and the cherries
weep, do you tell them, this is no death,
show them a man walking tracks, a child splattered pink
and black, first tomato bloody in her teeth? Won’t new life
wrought out of rust and broken glass,
wrung from reeds round empty factories, need a mother too?
What better land than one that sings them its similarity:
small, wise, proud, wild, radio, radiant!