Two poems

13 11 2009

I used to read poetry, and write it, too.

When students ask how to learn how to write better, I tell them Read poetry. Write it, too. They look at me, faces pulled back and skeptical. Your poems may be no good, I say, you may not want to show them to anyone. At this, they nod.

But you will pay attention, I say. You will learn to pay attention to the words.

I keep forgetting this, the paying of attention. Words come so easily for me, I take them in chunks and waterfalls, gorge on and scatter them, thoughtlessly.

Pay attention. I used to whisper this to myself, as a reminder. Then I stopped paying attention.

Friday at TNC’s open thread seems unofficially designated as poetry day. People post their own or, more commonly, poems which move them.

I’ve been rushing past. Words words words—what’s the point?

Slow down. Pay attention.

So, two poems, in honor of my long-ago friend C., and in memory of her younger brother, J.

Fourteen years ago this month—this Saturday—J. shot himself to death. He was thirteen.

What could we bring C.? I brought music; we brought ourselves. And I gave her two poems:

The body of my brother Osiris is in the mustard seed

Seed from an early Egyptian tomb,
after water damage to the case
in the Historisches Museum,
sprouted in 1955.

That was the year my brother’s foot
slipped on spray-wet log.
He was gone
into the whitewater out of sight.

Just downstream
the back of his head
came up
in a narrow chute.

Between terrible rocks
the back of my brother’s head
looked wet and small and dark.
I watched it through the roar.

Through tears, afraid
to pray, I told God
he was swimming. Wait.
He would lift his face.

—Brooks Haxton


A day comes when nothing matters
And nothing will suffice.
The heart says: I cannot,
The soul says: I am not.

The window whose frame
Once held dawn
Gleams all night in desolation,
And the one tree

Untouched by blight
Offers a fruit you do not refuse,
An anguish impossible to conceive

Until this lucky day.
Weigh it in your hands, so heavy,
So light: is there more to wish for?

—Phyllis Levin


Little pink houses for you and me

13 11 2009


Pfizer to Leave City That Won Supreme Court Land-Use Case

From the NYTimes story by Patrick McGeehan:

“Look what they did,” Mr. Cristofaro said on Thursday. “They stole our home for economic development. It was all for Pfizer, and now they get up and walk away.”

That sentiment has been echoing around New London since Monday, when Pfizer, the giant drug company,announced it would lead the city just eight years after its arrival led to a debate about urban redevelopment that rumbled through the Unites States Supreme Court, and reset the boundaries for governments to seize private land for commercial use.

Pfizer said it would pull 1,400 jobs out of New London within two years and move most of them a few miles away to a campus it owns in Groton, Conn., as a cost-cutting measure. It would leave behind the city’s biggest office complex and an adjacent swath of barren land that was cleared of dozens of homes to make room for a hotel, stores and condominiums that were never built.

Robert  Pero, a city council member who’s about to become mayor, noted that the city lost over a thousand jobs with the move, but retain the building.

Then again, he added, “I don’t know who’s going to be looking for a building like that in this economy.”

He also noted that he was unhappy that Pfizer didn’t contact the city before deciding to leave.

“I’m sure that there are people that are waiting out there to say, ‘I told you so,’ ” Mr. Pero said. “I don’t know that even today you can say, ‘I told you so.’ ”

Hmmm. And yet many of those screwed over by their own city retain the ability to say precisely that.

Large swaths of barren land where neighborhoods once stood, driven out not for the public good (always a tough call, but if not always justified, at least justifiable) but because regular citizens living their lives don’t produce enough profit benefit to the city.

Not that that would even happen in New York. I mean, the Atlantic Yards project—it’s all good.