This store has not yet been remodeled
but we want you to know
that positive change is on the way.
When mornings merely pose the question how
late, I open my backpack on the train
and it is a little house containing everything I need
I can carry around the city with me:
wallet, lip balm, notepad, book;
soundtrack to put inside my ears;
gloves, scarf, hat—all the cumbersomes of winter
fated soon to fall to the ground sadly,
silently unnoticed all across the city.
Take your express to success! My body
presses into the plastic seats to feel the train’s
heavy weight as it digs each day deeper
into the steel tracks from Inwood
to Rockaway Park and back again,
then back again, while a muffled voice thanks me
for “participating in security”
and a sign reminds me that a crowded train
is no excuse for an improper touch.
There is a science to make-up
I don’t fully understand
but have nevertheless learned to follow:
denser brush for accruing sufficient
pigment on the lid, then blend in darker shade
along the crease for a sense of depth—
May I demonstrate to you onlookers
the mechanics of liquid eyeliner
at stops, mascara on the bumpy ride?
Although it’s true I’ve reached the age
at which, if I have a choice in the matter,
I’ll choose knitwear every time,
and I’ve noticed it takes increasing amounts
of powder to cover the unwanted
unevenness that sun and living have lent me,
hope assures me I have a few more years
to pretend at youth. Retin-A at night
and I do believe the lines
are getting fainter; I do believe
the creams when they promise
to stop the hurtlings of time forward and back,
though I admit I’ve begun to grow weary
of having by now helped my hair
through so many traumas
from wet to dry, wet to dry—
that initial frizz and panic,
then coaxing the follicle smooth.
I turn on my device.
I gaze into my device.
Yes, Yes, No, I say into the void,
Speak to a representative. I shuttle
from work to home to aim
my head at different screens.
Snow, then slush, then slop—
salt dominating everywhere,
salt eating through my boots.
Must it always be along these walks
a game of who yields
to whose trajectory?
I think they installed the spike edges
around that building’s edge
so no one poor could linger there.
Lately I’ve been considering
the gratuitous loveliness
of scalding water loosening food from plates,
how water can soften almost anything with time,
and how, really, when it comes down to it,
the only pain most of us care about is our own.
Sometimes I think hell may be a place
of endless printer jams,
in which I am left trying to untangle
a never-ending sea of necklace chains;
where advertising inserts are spilling
continually out of magazines I want to read,
and one essential item never makes it
into the laundry.
Other times I feel intensely human,
compassionate—like the evening
I saw a man bend down to scoop up stale bagels
thrown onto the road for a flock of pigeons,
or watching that woman produce
a clean white tissue from her purse
to retrieve the fallen man’s pink dentures
from the subway stairs.
“We are an instant that disappears in time;
there is nothing to hide
and nothing to lose,” reads a glossy card
handed to me by Nelson Garzon,
the Colombian man who sometimes stands
on the corner of 56th and Park
asking for help to repair the purple-red deformity
protruding from his face.
“The condition I present
is a vascular disorder that injures
blood vessels named ‘hemangioma.’”
Sometimes I am moved enough
to give—to do. Mostly I do nothing instead.
No, I’m not especially good,
it occurred to me the other day,
though I may have once
default-considered myself so—
no—I’m just honest (for the most part)
and generally lacking in restraint,
reliably revisiting the same few
plot lines like mantras to myself:
Loved It Too Hard ‘Til It Went Away, or
Over-Articulated It to Its Burial Point.
“When you can't sleep,” he said,
“just tell yourself the story of your life.”
“I mean, nothing would make me happier
than being happy,” joked the sitcom character
last night on TV. I click through my profile
pictures once more to imagine how I’m seen.
Everywhere I go I am encouraged
to eat more and to eat less. They were half
the calories, so I took two.
(So basically you are saying yes
to yourself all day, every day,
noted the hypnotist years ago.)
At times I pity the construction workers
I pass each morning whose hopeful gazes
almost will my body better than it is;
other times I hope my disgust burns
through them as I turn away,
violated by their wolfish stares.
Saturday at Le Pain Quotidienne
some men stopped to chat with their friend:
“You know what happened to me the other day?
I had just bought some gold and black sneakers
for the hip hop party tonight,and when I went home
and looked in my closet, I realized I already had
two pairs of gold and black high-tops!”
“This one has a serious addiction to sneakers.”
“Nothing wrong with that.”
When I returned home, the rejection
in my inbox was kind: they enjoyed
the progressions in each, especially where
there were ample turn-offs
to go from the banal
to the deeply banal—
and I was reminded that still,
still having the receipt is one of the greatest
forms of absolution I know of in this world.