Broadway

Mark Doty

 
Under Grand Central's tattered vault
  --maybe half a dozen electric stars still lit--
    one saxophone blew, and a sheer black scrim
billowed over some minor constellation
  under repair. Then, on Broadway, red wings
    in a storefront tableau, lustrous, the live macaws
preening, beaks opening and closing
  like those animated knives that unfold all night
    in jewelers' windows. For sale,
glass eyes turned outward toward the rain,
  the birds lined up like the endless flowers
    and cheap gems, the makeshift tables
of secondhand magazines
  and shoes the hawkers eye
    while they shelter in the doorways of banks.
So many pockets and paper cups
  and hands reeled over the weight
    of that glittered pavement, and at 103rd
a woman reached to me across the wet roof
  of a stranger's car and said, I'm Carlotta,
    I'm hungry. She was only asking for change,
so I don't know why I took her hand.
  The rooftops were glowing above us,
    enormous, crystalline, a second city
lit from within. That night
  a man on the downtown local stood up
    and said, My name is Ezekiel,
I am a poet, and my poem this evening is called
  fall. He stood up straight
    to recite, a child reminded of his posture
by the gravity of his text, his hands
  hidden in the pockets of his coat.
    Love is protected, he said,
the way leaves are packed in snow,
   the rubies of fall. God is protecting
    the jewel of love for us.
He didn't ask for anything, but I gave him
  all the change left in my pocket,
    and the man beside me, impulsive, moved,
gave Ezekiel his watch.
  It wasn't an expensive watch,
    I don't even know if it worked,
but the poet started, then walked away
  as if so much good fortune
    must be hurried away from,
before anyone realizes it's a mistake.
  Carlotta, her stocking cap glazed
    like feathers in the rain,
under the radiant towers, the floodlit ramparts,
  must have wondered at my impulse to touch her,
    which was like touching myself,
the way your own hand feels when you hold it
  because you want to feel contained.
    She said, You get home safe now, you hear?
In the same way Ezekiel turned back
  to the benevolent stranger.
    I will write a poem for you tomorrow,
he said. The poem I will write will go like this:
  Our ancestors are replenishing
    the jewel of love for us.
 
From My Alexandria, published by University of Illinois Press. Copyright © 1993 by Mark Doty. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Poems by This Author

A Green Crab's Shell by Mark Doty
Not, exactly, green:
At the Gym by Mark Doty
This salt-stain spot
Brian, Age 7 by Mark Doty
Couture by Mark Doty
Peony silks
Deep Lane by Mark Doty
Heaven for Helen by Mark Doty
Helen says heaven, for her
Heaven for Stanley by Mark Doty
For his birthday, I gave Stanley a hyacinth bean
Letter to God by Mark Doty
Paul's Tattoo by Mark Doty
Robert Harms Paints the Surface
of Little Fresh Pond
by Mark Doty
Surface the action of the day
Signal by Mark Doty
Spent by Mark Doty
Late August morning I go out to cut
The Embrace by Mark Doty
You weren't well or really ill yet either;


Further Reading

Poems about Buildings
Architecture Moraine
by Joanna Fuhrman
Block City
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Cape Coast Castle
by Yusef Komunyakaa
Glass House
by Heather McHugh
Notes on a Visit to Le Tuc D'Audoubert
by Clayton Eshleman
Skyscraper
by Matt Rasmussen
Steps
by Grace Schulman
The Barcelona Inside Me
by Robin Becker
The Parallel Cathedral
by Tom Sleigh
The Starlings
by Jesper Svenbro
Water Picture
by May Swenson
Pockets
A Sock Is a Pocket for Your Toes [excerpt]
by Elizabeth Garton Scanlon
At the Playground, Singing for Psychiatric Outpatients
by Peter Everwine
At the Public Market Museum: Charleston, South Carolina
by Jane Kenyon
Blankets of Bark
by Sherwin Bitsui
Chaplinesque
by Hart Crane
Go Greyhound
by Bob Hicok
Gospel
by Philip Levine
Inventing Father In Las Vegas
by Lynn Emanuel
Pockets
by Howard Nemerov
Regarding Chainsaws
by Hayden Carruth
The Waltz We Were Born For
by Walt McDonald
Two Countries
by Naomi Shihab Nye