Ken Bolton

(1949 - / Sydney / Australia)

Poem ('The Ice In My Glass') - Poem by Ken Bolton

the ice in my glass goes crink!
as it adjusts to the tequila — keying in
that sophistication — the feel of it — I associate
with these tall buildings — a bit of the
skyline of New York I envisage,
important to me for many years —

or if they weren’t, the buildings stood
for the idea of importance, New York —
an imaginary number filling out
an order — of which the others were a part:
the finite Melbourne, Sydney, Glebe —
& Fitzroy & Bega. Did I think about it?

But it became less important — & then, almost by accident,

I visited, & saw it — specific, real —
& loveable, surely — if less impressive than the
rarely summoned abstraction. Strange —
& terrible — to think of it threatened,
New Yorkers frightened — as the city’s image
draws retaliation upon it. Clink, the ice again, settling.

My New York — the notional one — the city of poets,
of art. I met one poet there — ‘perfect’ —
urbane, bohemian a little, worldly, smart,
immensely intelligent. (The art, there, was in galleries
& historical — great, but not like the poet.) My
second time I met rich people — the sort the terrorists

think of: people congratulating themselves on
the world & their ownership of it — talking deals, leverage,
new fields, salaries & investment. We were on a penthouse roof
near the UN building, looking out over the water
(towards New Jersey? — somewhere) for
the fireworks of July the 4th. The same UN building

as in James Schuyler’s poem, that moves slightly — in
the wind, the light — or has that building been torn down & gone
& this is a new one?
The New York I like —
personalized, romantic — about which I know a great deal,
detail — things that have happened there, what one poet said
to another (at Gem Spa, at the Morgan Library), the

books they read, thoughts they had: unreal again —
a fabled, picturesque locality, of thirty years ago.
A little like the Sydney I now visit, which I left
in the 80s & in fact hardly know — can scarce reconcile
with the site of my former life there: where X said A to Y,
where ‘L’ lay (or sat) & wrote ‘Sleeping in the Dining Room’,

or ‘A’ began, “Saussure! Saussure!” — where I lived, round the corner
behind the Max Factor Building. I didn’t meet the rich —
tho Sydney has them — resembling New York’s probably
& voting just as vociferously
to support war on the Afghans.
Frank O’Hara, a hero of mine — a one-time hero, a hero still —

mixed with the rich a little. But as was said in his defence once

recently, he never owned more than two suits. He was not of them.
I don’t like the Sydney rich — for wishing to be interchangeable
with their New York counterparts. Which is as I fancy them.
Tho as it said on the Max Factor building below the name —
“Sydney London Paris Rome New York” — & I aspired
in my own way, too.

Funny, all the papers have pointed out
the Auden poem, “1939”, has been much quoted —
& some Yeats? Would Rome or Berlin — Paris even —
have sent minds to poetry? It is the enormity of the act —
New York as symbol — & as never attacked before.
I wonder if it is a new era? You’ll read about it elsewhere —
not here. If it is. I might look up that Schuyler poem, “Funny

the UN building moved / & in all the years / I’ve
lived here” or something — or find the O’Hara one
in which he stays up late trying to select his poems
thinking, good or bad, he did it at least. Wrote them.

Now
I’ve found out what I think. Very little.
As I might have guessed. An event moving ‘under the skin’

away from words — & become attitude.

Events
will be bigger than me. Having ideas about them being
almost irrelevant. Though I ‘have’ them: none helpful or
resolvable: that the New York I liked, even then, came
at a price, that today does, & that I don’t pay it.
The free ride you complain about — would you get off?

As usual the exchange rate dominates the news again
— a cargo cult
The dues you pay are servitude — so you can hate yourself,
or wonder merely at the duration of the ride


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Poem Submitted: Monday, May 14, 2012



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