THE BANKER CONSIDERS AUTUMN
This is the true meaning of windfall—
heaps of gold compounding
by the minute, accruing at my feet,
extravaganza of deserved gifts.
Overhead, leaves rustle
like new bills awaiting their tally.
And that top note of burning!
So many new paths being cleared
for those of us destined
to inherit the earth.
–A 1919 “cine poem” by Joris Ivens filmed in Amsterdam
Seized by silent motion on a side wall,
seized by that rain that time that place:
museum-goers eddy around me.
I’m in a palm raised to feel the first drop,
windows cranked shut by unseen hands,
shades flapping. Bare trees on a bank
shift their branches, waving upside down
on the surface of a canal, and I’m spun around,
forgetting the year and season. I’ve ducked
under a huge black umbrella,
its ribs a span of arches,
safe as a refugee in a medieval cloister.
I’m looking down on a horse stamping
the weather, joined the crowds to board a trolley,
my cloche tugged tighter against the wind. Now
I ride past the cobblestone streets, wet streaks
jittery against the windowpane. Abandoned
wash sags on a line, barrels overflow,
a marble statue drips water like sweat
from his stone body, drain pipes gush
torrents that enter into the street’s river.
Jumping off the trolley, I trail behind
three schoolgirls in tandem, heads hooded
with wool coats, a six-legged being in motion, while
small white birds rise as one from a slick rail.
When I dive into reflections, I feel most alive:
the puddle where a poodle strains
against his leash and oxfords hurry by,
then vanish; the shiny black fender that captures,
for a second, an umbrella sailing past.
High up, the first splashes of light filter downward
through iron girders crisscrossing the sky.
Stillness descends. In the canal,
rain-drop circles no longer quiver and multiply.
Where is that black-and-white photo of myself
in a long dark dress someone from that time
once wore, that decades-old photo of a young woman
who peers out from behind the mirrored door
of our turn-of-the-century armoire?
Where has it gone? And she? I’m there in 1919,
I’m here, a shivery-cold day in New York City,
first month of another new year,
nearly one hundred gone since that rain,
and still I find myself inside the curved vault
of a silk umbrella, watching one crystal bead
cling to a spoke, and how it holds within itself
what light the rain allows.
ON CHRISTMAS EVE
More rain and a sky at first remote,
then gone, as if even a modest idea
of heaven—sunlight’s thumbprint pressed
to half-closed eyes—were out of reach.
Lately I live like a sleepwalker but one born
under a lucky sign who misses walls,
stretched wires, falls down steep stairs
to certain death. Another time.
Dramatic ends demand awareness—
what good is the tragic hero asleep?—
not this dull grief that clouds the senses.
And so I feel relieved, content to stumble
through fog this Christmas Eve, believing
a shift will come, a star, a kiss.