Bio Note: Born and raised in Coney Island, I'm a Coney Island patriot. And a squash racquets fanatic. My headstone is to read, "One More Game?" I am the author of Collected Poems 1954-2004 (Schocken Books 2004) and Usable Truths: Aphorisms & Observations (Waywiser Press 2019).
To S., Underground
Conceit is not news, vanity not news, nor the jaunty cripples of a season, impresarios to their famous lyrical humps. And yet these thoughts keep me awake, or I awake to keep such thoughts, insomnia striving between shame and envy, saved by neither from neither, between nihilism and indignation, beleaguered by both. But there you are with a mailing list and three forgotten volumes, your toe in the door of forty, faithful to failure—childhood's eternal province—hard times' new hero in a last corner of the old place, sniffing the ancient culture of spilt milk, living lean in a fat time, my friend, of indefinite gestures that wave the light away, of smiles of stymied gentleness, of patient carbons, your black virgins going gray but keeping in touch, and puns that go nowhere punctually, obsolete timetables of your misery, your autumn anthologies shuffling the loose leaves, your little flame, your sadness, your embarrassed tongue, old porter fumbling bags, all unspeakably too much to bear. You gaze out, and nothing there dissuades you from your privacy. S., it tempers my mind to think of you, your tiny vortex, its peaceful dwelling like water on a drain, dauntless and quiet, spinning, creative, stooping to scan the humblest darkness with diffident clarity; you are gentle and do not weary and persist for failure, carrying your small debris around and around—the lightest things the deluge left—and you drop toward its deeper issue, imagining the earth's unenunciated still there where your paradise drowned, the tribe of lost aboriginals, thick, buried deep, dumb roots in a place of restoration. And so you put children together, wittily, out of whatever: scraps you find or rummage in the street, recollecting these neglected, the tiniest leavings—bits of stone, bits of metal, glass, and wood. And topplingly you pile up your solemn statuary, these little emigrés from your childhood’s orphanage. They stand there waiting, each two-inch child alone in space, hundreds and hundreds, a millennium of foundlings in a falling world, you down there barely breathing in Brooklyn, buried live and flinging up your daily bucket. The coprophages of success in the poses of pride, corruption, and wrath caper on the earth. You grope in darkness, they grovel in light.
©2020 Irving Feldman
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