Summer 2009 - THE POTOMAC

   J. Elizabeth Clark

A faded plastic pink tampon applicator
lies in a puddle, its tail so like the last sight
of a tunneling sperm.

The subway plunges ahead rashly—
our yearning alone
keeps us on course as the woman with three teeth
stares at me, her bruises vivid, wet, purpling.
She whispers, "I’m going to Tiffany’s
to buy me some damn fine earrings."

I know women walking
with babies strapped to their chests
really talk only to themselves. It’s easy
to be left alone in New York.

Christmas this year looks like autumn,
the leaves just falling now.
Central Park, ornamental
in orange and green,
reflects the dubiousness of joy.

There’s no easy narrative here:
the reliable, rational cause and effect
is AWOL. I cause commotion
wherever I go. Inside the museum,
coat-checked strangers stare at my breasts
outlined against my t-shirt
like an Andrew Wyeth nude, swaying,
unfettered, nipples poking through,
rose thorns in a plastic bag.

The homeless have returned
even on the most fashionable streets.
Stars arrested for shop-lifting,
our city still smolders,
its skyscrapers burrowing
down into their own foundations.

We drop bombs.
At the Met, the creche glows
surrounded by the every-year angels,
the carols’ chatter unending
as the faithful murmur, murmur.

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