poetics unleashed: susan rosalsky


frank, the guy who sits next to me

He’s the one with the tie, crying out loud
My god, I’m getting old. Can anyone
recommend a good adult diaper
? Ha
ha, ha, he’s just kidding, and he’s not proud

anyway. He says that if he needed
one for real you’d hear about that too. He’s
got nothing left to hide except for his
bald spot, which he long ago conceded—

but only after some frat prince golf-king
with bowed legs and a wallet made of the
finest skin available knocked Frank’s rug
to the trading floor. Shocking, shocking

to see the man so accidentally
revealed: to frankly face the face of Frank
without his mop of youth up there. To see it
fall all at once, not incrementally—

the way that age besets us. And what did
Frank do? Naked as a wizened baby
with some deep-etched lines, with this face that was
news to all of us, he took his brown lid

and tossed it to some younger buddies at
their desks. The kind of guys who actually
went to college. They tried it on, at Frank’s
insistence, which gave each of them two hats.

He laughed at them for days. You should’ve seen
, he said. The traders barely grinned,
exchanging glances, uncomprehending
when Frank said Just wait, you’ll see what I mean,

you’ll get how dumb the joke is—years from now.
At his desk he sighs, then he turns, a clown:
Sue, everyone knows I got my head up my
my ass, so there’s one thing I want to say

Is it dark in here or is it only me?


outside the lighthouse school

Is it a terrible thing to envy the blind?
They always know where they are.
With eyes that don’t deny them
but provide them with a world
less sharply unreflecting than my own,
they tap around these city blocks,
(you can smell the harbor here),
wearing what they cannot see.
They are blind to the deflective stares
of strangers and glass buildings,
to the angry glare of jammed-up cars
that squeeze into the tunnels.
To the gaze like poured concrete
of the bored Duane Reade cashier,
and the reptilian leer of the ferry drunk—
half his face submerged in a paper bag.
Separately the blind tap past
the horde of city sights
that pierce the seeing eye
with their refractions.

What I would give for a world of solid wall.
For a surface that whispers
to the touch the secret of my location:
you are here, you are here.
No fractured city vista can provide such affirmation,
what’s required is the holding of the hand
to a wall. What’s needed is a confirmation
of what’s real, not merely scene—
like the side of this dun building
where we smoke and watch the blind
arrive and go from the Lighthouse School.
What I’m saying is:
a girl might feel her way
with more conviction if she had a simple wall
to help her through, reflecting back to her her place
in this head-buzz maze of views.


Originally published:
Issue Eleven
July 2001


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