Poems by William C. Watterson


Behind me Carroll Gardens where my friend Gennaro lives.
I can still see his cheeky brothers,
plump-faced putti with ripe olive eyes,
still hear their high shrieks of delight
as they give the raspberry to strangers from the doorway
then run inside to hide.
Their pregnant sister looks up as I pass,
smiles down at the family of marigolds
she has been tending in a window box.
On the sidewalk the Sicilian grandfather
sits in his green-plaid plastic lawn chair like a throne,
spits as the mood takes him any which way into wind,
the same wind perhaps that blew him
from Messina in 1906 in steerage
to this seat of honor on the street
or maybe another.
Tomato and basil linger on the air,
their sweet simmer a sine qua non of summer.

I am bound for SoHo and another gallery opening,
the state of art an upscale warehouse
where canvasses all concept and no craft
will stare me down,
the painter's Montrachet in jelly glasses
a priceless joke that only rich Bohemians
can afford.
Pale faces taut as lampshades
will shed hushed light
on bold aesthetic motives, on passion, on AIDS,
on the City's science of living and dying
on the edge.

To reach Manhattan
I will brave this bridge at a great height,
the blue of harbor and sky
a reciprocity as in Boudin
where heaven mirrors water,
where when you fall -- up or down --
it will be through river light
that lands you lucky on your feet
near a gypsy cab
that carries you the rest of the way.

No seconds now for Berryman or Crane,
for mistakes made metaphors
for that bridge to the unwordable
cabled like a lyre
and stretching the whole arch span of it.
Today foot traffic keeps me on the verge --
cordovans, earth shoes, sandals, jogging pumps

men and women like Mercury with wings at heels,
their faces on fire with life like Whitman's strangers
whose bright electric eyes give me that look that says
somewhere they will be waiting for me.

For their sake, for the sake of who's ahead
or might be next I keep on moving,
the human flow I go with now, alive,
never to be repeated, never satisfied.
I whistle. I quicken my step.
I salute the white gull
for a moment motionless
on the downdraft.

Love and art, art and love
that have brought me to this
will find a way to lift me back.

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