Greenpoint, October, 2015

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Flower on a Crowded Subway

The penultimate poem in our summer series, Is Poetry Motion?, is by Martin Jacobvitz, one of the students to whom Kenneth Koch taught poetry at PS 61 in 1968. Koch used poems he loved, like Wallace Stevens' "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird," as models and inspirations for the children's poems. As he writes in, Rose Where Did You Get That Red?: Teaching Great Poetry to Children, "They wrote remarkably well."
Five Ways of Looking at a Flower

Sitting on a chair
Among gray buildings
Is a flower.

People of New York
Imagine the country?
Can they see a flower
On a crowded subway?

Waving wind
Moving a small plant
A bright shining sun
Paints the shadow of a large flower.

A flower is embedded
My thoughts are with it
So are an insect's.

The flower wilted to the the ground,
It was the finish of many things.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

For What? For Whom?

Pablo Neruda's poems from The Book of Questions seem ready made for Poesía en movimiento. Here's one to ponder in a subway car or coming across the Gowanus viaduct on the BQE:

Will our life not be a tunnel
between two vague clarities?

Or will it not be a clarity
between two dark triangles?

Or will life not be a fish
prepared to be a bird?

Will death consist of nonbeing
or of dangerous substances? 

(XXXV; tr. William O'Daly)

No será nuestra vida un túnel

entre dos vagas claridades?

O no será una claridad

entre dos triángulos oscuros?

O no será la vida un pez

preparado para ser pájaro?

La muerte será de no ser

o de sustancias peligrosas?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Water Babies

Those aren't sunspots on the windshield or raindrops. They're signs of progress on repairing the center lanes of the Gowanus Expressway West. Sprinklers are set up for curing the newly poured concrete. In just 28 days or so we'll have new roadway. And the jersey barriers will be moved as another section gets ripped up....The cycle of birth and detour.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Baby Bump

Update on the morning's post ("Roll Out"). It's a speed-bump in the offing.
Not very high yet, or decorated with stripes. But an excellent idea, DOT.


Signs appeared on Monday morning.

That afternoon, this pair arrived:

More warnings:

Tuesday morning, a DOT guy was hosing down the red roller.

By Tuesday afternoon, it was all done. I don't know what they did.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sun Struck

82nd St. station platform, 6 P.M., Monday, August 25. Finally, summer.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

For the Delights

Is it possible our summer series, In Poetry Motion, has yet to include an Emily Dickinson entry? But which one might speak to New Yorkers on their way to work or school, to play or pray? How about a little apartment hunting?
Julio Cortazar (from Around the Day in Eighty Worlds)
Too few the mornings be,
Too scant the nights.
No lodging can be had
For the delights
That come to earth to stay,
But no apartment find
And ride away.

Monday, August 25, 2014

International Star

Subway poems give way to subway realities. Or subway opportunities. Photo opportunities, that is.
Tourists flock to the platform's edge to photograph a rat on the tracks.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Caves of the Cavemen

The subway station
with its electric lights, pillars of steel, arches of cement,
   and trains -
quite an improvement on the caves of the cavemen;
but look! on this wall
a primitive drawing.

An underground gem from Charles Reznikoff's "Going To and From and Walking Up and Down," published in the collection By the Waters of Manhattan. I first encountered this book, and this poet, many years ago in a bookstore in Warsaw bookstore that maintained a shelf of highly miscellaneous used English- language books. I bought if for the cover alone--a design by Gilda Kuhlman, featuring her grainy photograph of the East River and East Side Drive (little knowing my beat would be the other side of the river).

Inside, Reznikoff's meditations on quotidian New York City life read as precursors to Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems--only, you know, Jewish.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Lion Daze

Lion Head, Bernard Langlais
One of Philip Larkin's many poems that celebrate the seasons, "Long Lion Days" is about the kind of day we haven't had many (or any?) of this summer, at least in New York.

Long lion days
Start with white haze.
By midday you meet
A hammer of heat -
Whatever was sown
Now fully grown,
Whatever conceived
Now fully leaved,
Abounding, ablaze -
O long lion days.

Perhaps it's not too late?

Thursday, August 21, 2014


There aren't many bars with a courtyard overlooking the BQE. Perlita in Woodside seems to be staking out one. It's not clear what the lifejackets signify...
but I'd hate to be a man overboard here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Crossing to Newark

New Jersey Turnpike from a Newark-bound NJ Transit train.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

We Walk on the Grass

Stevie Smith's "The Pleasures of Friendship," brings a rare exclamation point to our summer series Poetry or Motion. And, as always with Stevie Smith, the question of tone. Mind how you walk.

The pleasures of friendship are exquisite,
How pleasant to go to a friend on a visit!
I go to my friend, we walk on the grass,
And the hours and minutes like moments pass.
Bryant Park (June 2014)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A World in My Thinking

I didn't expect an entry from Texas for our summer Subway Stanzas series. Sometimes the poem and image just fall into your lap. In this case, at the Folk Art Museum's show, Self-Taught Geniuses (closes today!).
In the WorldConsuelo González Amézcua (1962)
I have a world in my thinking
Full of joy and full of art
For Del Rio I am always singing
School of arts I couldn't afford
And for that I thank the Lord
For what he has give me is the truth
For him I write
And carve a stone
And make a drawing
And sing a song

The drawing, completed in ball-point pen, and song above were both created by Consuelo González Amézcua, known as Chelo. Born in Mexico, she was brought to Del Rio, Texas, by her family when she was 10 years old. According to the Museum's catalog, she "had hoped to attend art school, the death of her father in 1932 prompted her to remain at home with her mother and sister. She took a job at the local Kresge’s department store and lived in Del Rio for the remainder of her life." 

Art school's loss, perhaps our gain.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Madonna on the Block

Yesterday's post reported on the City's take-down of a tree outside my building. This morning, as I was walking past the remains, I noticed something on the stump. A card? Closer inspection revealed a praying figure. The Virgin Mary, I assume.
Did someone leave it as a tribute to the tree of life? I flipped it over: An advertisement for Botanica Elizabeth, promising Salud Dinero Amor. I turned it back over.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Roof to Stump

When I realized what was going on outside my building, I went up on the roof to have a look.

10 minutes later, the canopy came down.
When I got back that afternoon, one less tree, one less parking space (for the moment).

Thursday, August 14, 2014

In Red Weather

The mountains of Rego Park?
Strange weather, like yesterday's downpours, sun breaks, and cloud mountains--not to mention, "super moons"--makes me think of Wallace Stevens' "Disillusionment at Ten O'Clock."

The houses are haunted
By white night-gowns.
None are green,
Or purple with green rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings.
None of them are strange,
With socks of lace
And beaded ceintures.
People are not going
To dream of baboons and periwinkles.
Only, here and there, an old sailor,
Drunk and asleep in his boots,
Catches tigers
in red weather.

Read it on the subway. Try not to dream of baboons and periwinkles.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

NYPD Brillo

One of the exhibits in the newly reopened Queens Museum tells the story of Andy Warhol's mural for the New York State Pavilion of the 1964 World's Fair, 13 Most Wanted Men. Warhol created silkscreen portraits from the mugshots of 13 of the NYPD's most wanted fugitives from justice. Not surprisingly, the police and many others objected and it was removed and replaced by Warhol with a large silver square.
(Courtesy Andy Warshol Museum)
Around this time, Warhol was beginning to create the Brillo and Campbell soup boxes that would explode his reputation and excite much ridicule of "Modern Art." The stack in the center of the museum's floor vaguely recalled something I'd seen just moments ago walking across Flushing Meadows Park, the scene of the crime in 1964.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Grand Central Artway

I finally made it to the newly reopened and renovated Queens Museum on Sunday. I entered the museum from the Flushing Meadows Park side. Nothing new here: The museum has always had a great view of the Unisphere. I came out on the other side (more about what I saw in between later). Like stepping directly onto the Grand Central Parkway. That feels right for the Queens Museum, which owes its existence to the Worlds Fairs of 1939 and 1964--those celebrations of the Modern World. What epitomizes the that world better than the freedom and convenience of the automobile, and the highways that allow us to enjoy them?
The GCP was built in the early 1930s as one of New York City's glorious parkways. It was expanded, and became considerably less park-like, in 1961 in preparation for the World's Fair. Here's a picture of the museum and the parkway during the fair:
(Courtesy Queens Museum)

Monday, August 11, 2014

Coldly Took Their Nickels

Sixth Ave. & W. 4th St.
How could we omit Paul Goodman from our summer series, Poetry/Motion? Goodman is rightly known for many things beyond his poetry. His social commentary, plays for the Living Theatre, contributions to the development of Gestalt therapy...  But handball playing? The characterization of the Puerto Rican kids is facile at best ("hot youth"), but the poem still captures a quintessential New York City street sport. (I'm encouraged to see kids playing in the park in Elmhurst, as well as seasoned "pros" like those on West 4th above.)

Handball Players

The ball we bought in December
was tired in the shop
and didn't want to bounce at all
on the below-freezing court.

Arrogant in their hot
youth the Puerto Ricans
challenged us and smashed the wall.
But Dave and I were cold,

steady and intelligent,
and coldly took their nickels
dimes and silver quarters
with small shots in the corners.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Business, Done and Undone

Fort Square, the name popped into my head looking out the window at Destino's across to Our Lady of Good Voyage church. A few minutes drive, I was parking my car--on the diagonal, as directed--in front of the Fort Square Cafe, and walking out Commercial Street between warehouses and marine yards.

Fort Square, Gloucester: a tight little circle of a neighborhood, houses on top of each other, climbing over a small hill, surrounded by water.
I could have Googled the address, but preferred just to wander around. I had just about completed the loop. For some reason looked back over my shoulder and noticed the small plaque, next to an empty flag-holder, on the brick wall of a house I had already passed: "Charles Olson/Poet/1910-1970"
Olson moved to the apartment in Fort Square with his wife Betty in 1957. For an excellent, archaeological account of Olson in Gloucester, see Iain Sinclair's American Smoke. Below, the view he would have had as he walked out from the apartment. Perhaps the one he had in mind when he wrote the conclusion to "Maximus, to himself":

It is undone business
I speak of, this morning,
with the sea
stretching out
from my feet

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Good, Good Gloucester

Here is what I accomplished in Gloucester on one Monday morning in early August...

-Spent an hour and a half at Good Harbor Beach. Fogbound when I arrived, I almost decided to skip the beach (and save $20 for parking), but it cleared half an hour after I arrived. The water was as cold as it was in Maine a week ago.

-Lost a beach chair (left if outside the changing room and forgot it).

-Peeked in at Our Lady of Good Voyage church. Only to discover a memorial mass going on. (At least I wasn't still wearing my trunks.)

-Had a linguica sub at Destino's with fried onions and peppers (or just "fried" as they say at Destino's).

-Walked around the Fort Hill neighborhood. (More about that soon.)

-Picked up a good coffee and a couple almond crescents for the road from the Italian pastry shop at the end of Main street.

...and made it back to Cambridge for afternoon meetings and evening performance (not mine).

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Green Man of the SIE

I often stay on Gannon Avenue for an extra mile or so before getting on the eastbound Staten Island Expressway. It doesn't add much time as the traffic on the expressway slows considerably due to a long upgrade (despite the DOT's reminder to "maintain speed"). Today, for the first time, I noticed this tree between the avenue and the expressway.
It somehow recalled the rapacious tree in Kinglsey Amis' entertaining novel, The Green Man, itself drawing on legends of the human figure (or face at least) inextricably bound up with a tree's branches and leaves. What do you see?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Those Who Carry

Time for a few more proposals for our Poetry or Motion series before the summer comes to an end. Here is a poem by Polish poet Anna Kamieńska, translated by Grazyńa Drabik and David Curzon (from Astonishments: Selected Poems of Anna Kamieńska).
Those Who Carry

Those who carry grand pianos
to the tenth floor wardrobes and coffins
the old man with a bundle of wood hobbling towards the horizon
the lady with a hump of nettles
the madwoman pushing her baby carriage
full of empty vodka bottles
they all will be raised up
like a seagull's feather like a dry leaf
like an eggshell a scrap of newspaper in the street

Blessed are those who carry 
for they will be raised

The photo was taken outside a Waldbaum's in Woodside, Queens. Waiting for the bottle deposit machines to be turned on.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Danger Keep Off

The syntax for the sign in the van's rear window seemed "off" somehow.
The timing, right on.

Monday, August 4, 2014


At 30th Avenue, 68th Street and 69th Street nearly touch. Just a sidewalk and a narrow verge divide them. 68th Street owes its gentle curve to the only neighbor on the east side of the street--the BQE. A somewhat overgrown path beckons...
You're through! Shadows on the highway wall from one of the several old trees that line the street.
Further on, the highway wall is covered with ivy. Flowers in the garden across the street provide some color.
Only one house for sale on the block. Maybe good highways do make good neighbors.

Sunday, August 3, 2014


Another Civic, another era. I don't think this one is going to see 60,000 (let alone 36).
30th Ave., Astoria

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Civic Pride

I dropped my car for service at the Honda shop and took a walk through the no-man's-land between Woodside and Astoria, about where the two branches of the BQE pass overhead on their way to the GCP and Triboro Bridge. I'd seen the car before, a bit forlorn behind the fence of a small repair shop. This time, I decided to take a closer look. I noted the up-to-date registration and inspection stickers on the windshield, and how clean it looked--missing only the "H" on the rear hatch.

I found two guys working in the garage. "I just wanted to ask about the little Civic." "It's not for sale," he offered, before I had even asked. I suppose I'm not the first admirer to stop in.

I asked what year, and, after a quick consultation in Spanish with his colleague, "1978." Yeah, that sounds right. "Do you still use it?" "Yes, sometimes we drive it around." "How many miles?" "Not much, about 60."

60,000 miles, 36 years. What is that in people years, I wonder.