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.
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.
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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