Prelude (1995)

Just for tonight, I correct the crooked
spine of the scenery outside my room
window, its skyscrapers’ lighted windows
stacked into rows of glowing vertebrae.
The sight straightens, no longer the black boat
tenderly sawing the Hudson River:
a bow sailing across the chest of its
cello to perform an invisible
symphony. Like all instruments, I am
prepared to speak. The city’s reflection
remains half bitten in the water, but
it’s the peeking Twin Towers, the infant
skyline’s gray teething, that give it away.
The city offers its best iteration of intimacy

in the L train stroking every station’s
stomach as it passes through, but I am
here this far away because I want love
only when it listens to itself. When
my parents were near perfect rhymes of each
other. Love, in that I bear to listen.
The record needle of the Empire
State Building traces the grooves of the sky,
plays me the place where I am still not my
parents’ favorite verb, yet to be the stone
skipping through every potential mother’s
womb to land in my mother’s. Where they have
not begun sleeping in different bedrooms.
Love—a study in tense. In when love is.

I spot my mother and father strolling
towards each other. Do you know Papa and
I lived in the city at the same time?
Her eyes flit towards his. Minor chord. Her gaze
greasy with his. Of course, we hadn’t met
yet. They pass by each other. Lined up like
lyrics. I love their love the way I love
them here—unfinished, these young, soft strangers.
Crazy how the world will be right where you
leave it. I love their love the way they left
it. I love them the way I will last leave
them—two strangers. Two separate teardrops
streaking down two sleek cheeks of one city
then reconciling, pooling at the chin.