“When you tell them about their own bodies,”
My mentor told me, “realize
Their anatomy is Greek to them.
Their pupils dilate, pulses rise
With all the estranging mystery of tides.
You must unknow what you know
Like the back of your hand. Speak the body
In English plainer than a crow.
The deepest that their knowledge goes
Is the blood beneath the cut.
At the fork in a vein, in a brain’s ravines,
In the rumbling Tube of the gut
You’ll lose them every time because
We weren’t meant to open this chest.
Because the darkness in the body
Is darkness in the flesh.”
How utterly patriarchal, I scoffed
to myself, to advocate the demotic not
out of love, but rather to demote
the patient to a child, to an idiot
nodding at a white-haired white-
coated white male’s I-talk-plain-like-
plain-folks white linguistic lie.
Three rooms later, I felt in the groin crease
of a woman no older than my sister
a node, a lymphomatous dinosaur-egg
shortly to hatch that raptor
mortality. She told me, “That’s
been there for more’n a year now.
I figured after three kids
my ovary’d come loose & slid on down.”
By your kiosks and bus stops, your kielbasa oases
and falafel hovels, your white-whiskered
Trump Tower bellboys, organic-gouda
yoga yentas in shrink-wrap spandex,
your bong-broken Sharpie-placard
prophets of dengue and prion disease,
your interns and ex-cons, your Ponzie-power-suited
Goldman Goldilocks in latte lines,
hard hat and brown bag Spanish-speaking
borough builders, your lapsed this or lapsed that
something-seekers, your Broadway-wannabe
audition moths, your mothers and daughters
on picnic quilts, your peace-and-quiet
tai chi-knowing Taiwanese nonagenarians
sculpting noise in the thick of traffic,
your grates and grills mystically steaming,
windows and lanes lit from within,
doors revolving on Pythagorean pivots,
your stick-shift Beamers and turbaned cabbies,
your ferries and jetties, your fidgety fifth-
graders getting in one Wednesday
all of art, your subway-track axons
crowd-computing the incalculable,
your Swarovski-fragile skyscraper fronds,
curbside buggies whose horses hang
their prairie profiles to graze pavement,
your Park Slope ponytail jogging her dog,
your coffee and Wi-Fi café squatters,
City of decibels and tambourine roundabouts,
jeweled City with the Juilliard streets
and lions guarding your library gates,
City, I swear by your stained saints
and rusted ribs, by the world you were
and the all you are, City, I swear to you,
never again, never again.