Why this?

The occasional poem of my own and a generous helping of work by others that I find inspiring. Site is named for a beloved book by one of my favorite writers, Italo Calvino, whose fanciful work lights--and delights--my soul.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Self-Portrait on the Street of an Unnamed Foreign City

The lettering on the shop window in which
you catch a glimpse of yourself is in Polish.

Behind you a man quickly walks by, nearly shouting
into his cell phone. Then a woman

at a dreamier pace, carrying a just-bought bouquet
upside-down. All on a street where pickpockets abound

along with the ubiquitous smell of something baking.
It is delicious to be anonymous on a foreign city street.

Who knew this could be a life, having languages
instead of relationships, struggling even then,

finding out what it means to be a woman
by watching the faces of men passing by.

I went to distant cities, it almost didn’t matter
which, so primed was I to be reverent.

All of them have the beautiful bridge
crossing a grey, near-sighted river,

one that massages the eyes, focuses
the swooping birds that skim the water’s surface.

The usual things I didn’t pine for earlier
because I didn’t know I wouldn’t have them.

I spent so much time alone, when I actually turned lonely
it was vertigo.

Myself estranged is how I understood the world.
My ignorance had saved me, my vices fueled me,

and then I turned forty. I who love to look and look
couldn’t see what others did.

Now I think about currencies, linguistic equivalents, how
    lop-sided they are, while
my reflection blurs in the shop windows.

Wanting to be as far away as possible exactly as much as still
    with you.
Shamelessly entering a Starbucks (free wifi) to write this.

--Jennifer Grotz

Self-Portrait at 36 with David

Barnegat Light, New Jersey—April 4, 2015

Because looking at myself w/ out you beside me is unnatural
& though the light is all wrong—your camera slung & up

the light feels right to me, warm & soft, your chest pressed
towards my back, both our heads angling towards the dock,

boat slips on the bay—all the scallops secure in the sea still,
their bone-less bodies soft. & our own getting softer each day.

Sometimes the mirror makes our features fun-house style
& we’re way more old age than the teen age we most times
    feel,

or the slight of shutter promises supple & smooth, where edge
& ravine & straight up wrinkle have arrived & settled in

like vulnerable house guests we don’t have the heart to kick
    out.
How comfortable they’ve become all over our fine faces

& my neck—how they’ve become familiar w/ our privacy. How
we’ve begun to cradle them. Stitch & loom. In the photograph

there we are—chins tilted towards one another, mouths closed

& turned up. A type of satisfaction dead in this middle we’re
    both in.

--Ellen Hagan