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The Glittering Sea               Riding Home from Brighton Beach

         Bicycle on Ice           Feet

 

The Glittering Sea

 

I dreamed I fell from the highest building,

but that highest building was me.

For my work took me to the ninetieth floor

down by the glittering sea.

 

My sweetheart said, "Don't go in today,

just snuggle up close to me."

I said, "Sweet, you're naughty to say such a darling thing,

but I'm saving for you and me."

 

She said "Tell your boss you're sick or so,

we'll lie in a little bit more."

But I sighed and slipped into my clothes

and out of our bedroom door.

 

She turned to the wall and closed her eyes

but didn't sleep in for long.

She woke to a blaze of TV news,

and remembered where I'd gone.

 

Oh! please, dear God, make me late for work

down by the glittering sea.

Let some minor incident slow my train

to those canyons down by the sea.

 

I dreamed I fell from the highest building,

but that highest building was me.

For my work took me to the ninetieth floor

by the glittering, glittering sea.

 

Donald Gardner

in exhibition Reactions, Exit Art Gallery, New York (2002).

published in Ambit, no. 170, 2002

in collection The Glittering Sea, Hearing Eye Press, 2006

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Riding Home from Brighton Beach

        for Lori

 

First we get drunk.

Then some mini-blinis.

The vodka (in a carafe!) was great.

It's June but deathly cold, fog wraps round the sea.

All seas are the same in the fog,

could be the Black Sea, say at Odessa.

Wraiths of Tchekovian silhouettes lining the boardwalk, old men barneying with each other.

 

I am grumpy

though the vodka cheers for a moment,

lifting the fringe of a curtain of an amazing world where nowhere is everywhere, where NewYork is Odessa,

where nostalgia is not even on film.

We are the film.

 

But this is a country for old men

and I feel old

in this cold.

 

Then we ride home to Greenpoint.

Back to Brooklyn, you say.

But we're in Brooklyn anyway, I say!

Brighton Beach is in Brooklyn.

First, you say, we have to go to Manhattan, to Sixth Avenue and catch the L train back to Brooklyn.

It's as though we were trying to sew Brooklyn and Manhattan together.

Back and forth

back and forth.

 

I am grumpy.

Of all the tall tales of the subway this is the longest.

"You weren't talking to me", you said.

Darling, I was talking to you;

I was talking to you from a distance with my back turned.

 

Didn't you hear me muttering,

like the little waves along the shore,

nibbling away at the hard flat sand?

 

Soon there'll be not just half a subway car between us,

but an ocean or a sky.

But that shouldn't take much longer than a ride from Brighton Beach to Greenpoint! I say.

Maybe it'll only cost one subway token!

You get mad at me.

 

Oh don't get mad! oh come next flight!

We'll stitch New York and Europe together.

Making one big garment of our lives.

 

And we'll dine at home.

I'll make you shrimp and yoghurt soup.

Yes, and we'll drink Russian vodka

and never go out-of-doors again.

We'll wrap ourselves up in a big blanket

stitched out of all the cities of the world

and settle down.

 

 

Donald Gardner

in collection How to Get the Most out of Your Jet Lag,

Ye Olde Font Shoppe, New Haven, 2001

ISBN 1-889289-51-5

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Bicycle on Ice

 

Got home late

calvados in the tapas bar

was to blame

 

it was drizzling ice

a cold mist

 

rose from the freezing waters

of the Brouwersgracht

 

a gleaming skin of skid

on hump-backed bridges

 

I saw

a young woman on her bike

 

swivel in a dazzling unplanned

piece of figure-skating

 

from vertical

to horizontal

 

some rode to rescue her

not a wise move so it proved

 

bikes spreadeagled on a street of glass

like a heap of the slain

 

others wavering in pure good will

did their best just standing still

 

call me deserter if you like

I crawled back on hands and knees

 

dragging bike

like a stubborn dog

 

clung to parapet with one hand

bike with other

 

almost wrapped around myself

but how to move when move meant slide

 

trying to push myself and bike

at the same time forward

 

alcohol was my wheels

trepidation did the splits

 

who knows how I made it home

slept like a frozen doorstep

 

bike steaming in its shed

old nag stabled at last

 

 

Donald Gardner

in collection The Glittering Sea, Hearing Eye Press, 2006

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Feet

 

This month's ill part of me will be my feet.

I distress myself looking at them.

How shiny they are, the skin could be Chinese paper,

surfaces like moon plateaux.

 

My feet are growing old faster than the rest of me

though running on ahead would be an imprecise description.

Rather they stumble forward on their own momentum,

like a great power past its prime.

 

Crusty they are too, with fissures.

Less biology than geology.

Unsafe for walking on, a foot fetishist's worst case scenario.

 

I visit chiropodists all over town.

Each has a different version of what I should do.

They look at my two tombstones, mentally wringing their hands.

Mentally I watch them mentally wringing their hands.

 

Perhaps I'll need socks of elastic all my life.

Don't worry, they say. Flesh-coloured, they're almost invisible, they'll soon become part of you.

 

Various preparations may be applied, three times a day.

Don't expect a miracle however; you have unusually dry feet.

 

Others tell me the only solution may be surgery.

How everyone has it these days.

How you don't even need to overnight in hospital.

How with lasers it leaves no scar.

 

How I can get a replacement with feet of clay.

 

Next month I will celebrate my teeth.

 

Donald Gardner

in collection How to Get the Most out of Your Jet Lag,

Ye Olde Font Shoppe, New Haven, 2001

ISBN 1-889289-51-5

published in Chiropody Review, vol. 58, no. 1, 2001

and Tamarind, New York, Nov. 1998.

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