Monday, January 10, 2011

"grayed in, and gray"

One of the biggest changes I've noticed as I adjust to city life (particularly city life in the middle of winter in the neighborhood with the second least amount of park space of any in NYC) is how my poetry appetite has changed. Old friends like Wendell Berry, Jane Kenyon, and Mary Oliver don't awaken appreciation or love for a cold, half-industrial landscape and its (human) nature. They don't make much sense of prison or public assistance. So I was thankful to stumble across this Gwendolyn Brooks poem:

Kitchenette Building

We are things of dry hours and the involuntary plan,
Grayed in, and gray. "Dream" makes a giddy sound, not strong
Like "rent," "feeding a wife", "satisfying a man."

But could a dream send up through onion fumes
Its' white and violet, fight with fried potatoes
And yesterday's garbage ripening in the hall,
Flutter, or sing an aria down these rooms

Even if we were willing to let it in,
Had time to warm it, keep it very clean,
Anticipate a message, let it begin?

We wonder. But not well! Not for a minute!
Since Number Five is out of the bathroom now,
We think of lukewarm water, hope to get in it.
My first client today was a (40 year-old? 50 year-old? what's that in street years?) army veteran, obviously mentally ill, upset and complaining vaguely about one part of the so-called social safety net after another. Grayed in, and gray.

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