|Hilary Faye, Untitled, 2011|
You saw a dwarf and imagined yourself a dwarf
or the old homeless hag, pushing her cart of junk.
You closed your eyes for days at a time,
groping along the village walls, tumbling into bushes
with an embarrassed gasp.
You adored the gentlewoman--her pillowy bum--
and the chattering birds with faces like walnuts
and feet like twigs, so alive, alert, and active
in their birdie pursuits. Standing alone in your stale,
furnished room, you felt a shudder of feather
and the glowing air grew full, so close. To be alive
was wonderful, but to be small and stay small--
drop of water into the water.
This is about the outside limit on length for a subway poem. And let's hope no one is offended by uncovering a "pillowy bum" on the F train. What if the reader is not familiar with Robert Walser, the German minimalist (if that's the right word for his micro-prose)? Matters not at all. Here is a poem about the imagination and the places it lifts us to and trips us into.
For those interested in the evolution of a poem, I include the photo I took of the draft displayed at the exhibit (shot through the glass). The few changes in word choice and the ending are small but potent: