Kissing Stieglitz Good-Bye

Gerald Stern

 
Every city in America is approached
through a work of art, usually a bridge
but sometimes a road that curves underneath
or drops down from the sky. Pittsburgh has a tunnel—
you don't know it—that takes you through the rivers
and under the burning hills. I went there to cry
in the woods or carry my heavy bicycle
through fire and flood. Some have little parks—
San Francisco has a park. Albuquerque
is beautiful from a distance; it is purple
at five in the evening. New York is Egyptian,
especially from the little rise on the hill
at 14-C; it has twelve entrances
like the body of Jesus, and Easton, where I lived,
has two small floating bridges in front of it
that brought me in and out. I said good-bye
to them both when I was 57. I'm reading
Joseph Wood Krutch again—the second time.
I love how he lived in the desert. I'm looking at the skull
of Georgia O'Keeffe. I'm kissing Stieglitz good-bye.
He was a city, Stieglitz was truly a city
in every sense of the word; he wore a library
across his chest; he had a church on his knees.
I'm kissing him good-bye; he was, for me,
the last true city; after him there were
only overpasses and shopping centers,
little enclaves here and there, a skyscraper
with nothing near it, maybe a meaningless turf
where whores couldn't even walk, where nobody sits,
where nobody either lies or runs; either that
or some pure desert: a lizard under a boojum,
a flower sucking the water out of a rock.
What is the life of sadness worth, the bookstores
lost, the drugstores buried, a man with a stick
turning the bricks up, numbering the shards,
dream twenty-one, dream twenty-two. I left
with a glass of tears, a little artistic vial.
I put it in my leather pockets next
to my flask of Scotch, my golden knife and my keys,
my joyful poems and my T-shirts. Stieglitz is there
beside his famous number; there is smoke
and fire above his head; some bowlegged painter
is whispering in his ear; some lady-in-waiting
is taking down his words. I'm kissing Stieglitz
goodbye, my arms are wrapped around him, his photos
are making me cry; we're walking down Fifth Avenue;
we're looking for a pencil; there is a girl
standing against the wall—I'm shaking now
when I think of her; there are two buildings, one
is in blackness, there is a dying poplar;
there is a light on the meadow; there is a man
on a sagging porch. I would have believed in everything.
 
From Early Collected Poems: 1965-1992 by Gerald Stern. Copyright © 2010 by Gerald Stern. Used by permission of W. W. Norton. All rights reserved.

Poems by This Author

The Preacher [As if the one tree you love] by Gerald Stern
As if the one tree you love so well and hardly
Apocalypse by Gerald Stern
Of all sixty of us I am the only one who went
Books by Gerald Stern
How you loved to read in the snow and when your
Counting by Gerald Stern
Day of Grief by Gerald Stern
I was forcing a wasp to the top of a window
Death By Wind by Gerald Stern
Glut by Gerald Stern
The whole point was getting rid of glut
Magnolia by Gerald Stern
The mayor, in order to marry us, borrowed
My Sister's Funeral by Gerald Stern
Since there was no mother for the peach tree we did it
Sylvia by Gerald Stern
The Dancing by Gerald Stern
In all these rotten shops, in all this broken furniture
The Sparrow by Gerald Stern
Here’s a common sparrow, a bit of a schnorrer


Further Reading

Poems About Farewells
A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning
by John Donne
Before the Deployment
by Jehanne Dubrow
Chicago
by Carl Sandburg
Farewell
by John Clare
Farewell to Yang, Who's Leaving for Kuo-chou
by Wang Wei
Good Night
by Wilhelm Müller
Late August on the Lido
by John Hollander
Losing Track
by Denise Levertov
Remember
by Christina Rossetti
Since Hannah Moved Away
by Judith Viorst
So Long
by Walt Whitman
Verses upon the Burning of our House
by Anne Bradstreet
When We Two Parted
by George Gordon Byron
Poems about Jewish Experience
Kaddish, Part I
by Allen Ginsberg
A Little History
by David Lehman
Afterlife
by Joan Larkin
An Old Cracked Tune
by Stanley Kunitz
Fugue of Death
by Paul Celan
Hey Allen Ginsberg Where Have You Gone and What Would You Think of My Drugs?
by Rachel Zucker
In a Country
by Larry Levis
In the Jewish Synagogue at Newport
by Emma Lazarus
In the Park
by Maxine Kumin
It had been long dark, though still an hour before supper-time.
by Charles Reznikoff
Jew
by Michael Blumenthal
Notes on the Spring Holidays, III, [Hanukkah]
by Charles Reznikoff
The Poem as Mask
by Muriel Rukeyser