This quartet is mixed from several poems I’ve posted and was assembled for a reading about “Place” next Saturday. Yes, I’m reading.
Junette Street: Questions of Place
-1- Junette Street
I never mislaid the name of my first street: Rittenhouse.
But how to remember this new one? It sounds
like a month, or a name: is it Juliette? The worst feature of
the new house is not the kitchen where I cannot find the phone,
when it rings, it’s searching for the toilet in the dark, it’s waking, the where am I?
I sit with old folks at a card-table, holding paper cups, taking small sips.
Someone says: just try doing tai chi with a broken hip.
How long will I remember these lovely ballet words: glissade, plié, jeté, port de bras?
or that special marinade: 2 cups apple cider, ¼ th cup balsamic vinegar, dash of cayenne?
I teeter between making lemon curd and trying to remember
why I’m sitting here trying to remember.
From windows of countless dwellings
I’ve gazed at wondrous terrains, stalked
scores of cities, in search of home.
Everywhere I go, I imagine living there.
In every house, apartment or modest studio,
even tents, I concoct a spot to belong to.
I’ve grown tomatoes on fire escapes, sketched
maps on cabinets, fastened hundreds of post cards
that leave walls full of tiny holes when I go.
The sense of belonging is relished, but eventually retreats.
Nothing belongs to me. I know the grandeur of oceans
and mountains that are not mine. As I shut another
door, I think about who will live here when I move on.
This winter, I will light a candle, place it in a window
to guide the night birds to me so I can sleep.
I’ve saved the important things in a drawer of my mind.
I retell my story, as if looking over the shoulder|
of someone who also looks over a shoulder,
detached from all the worldly stuff I’ve lost or left behind.
I’m homesick as an immigrant and homeless as a refugee.
No one speaks my language, this food is unfamiliar gruel.
It’s true: not every death is mourned.
-4- On the question of place in the lives of Fernando Pessoa
There was always that disconnect. You never described your fingers
as part of a hand as part of an arm connected to a shoulder. Instead,
you escaped yourself, shrugging brilliantly to rouse the dust of time
and place. How many mornings did you wake, not knowing where you were?
You praised dreaming and spoke in silences, Still, your longing
was for Lisbon, always for Lisbon. Your childhood was an orphan of place,
and when you returned, it was too late. You sketched myriad lives
of others, who, like yourself, remain forever homeless.