by Bill Zavatsky

How bad can it be

this wacky New York City

with the first twelve lines

of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

blinking down at me

from a poster on this bus

brought to us

courtesy of the MTA

and the Poetry Society of America

(of which, incredibly, I am a member!)

and, to its right, above the rear door,

another poster: Charles Reznikoffās little poem

about how "the lights go out--"

in the subway

"but are on again in a moment,"

a poem I will be teaching to my students

in about a monthās time.

And perched in the center back seat

(she got on at Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street)

the beautiful actress Beverly DāAngelo

whom I couldnāt bring myself to ask

if shewas Beverly DāAngelo, except that I

recognized the perfection of her perfect little over-bite

chewing gum like mad over wild blue eyes agog,

as if sheād never sat on a bus before

or expected one of the passengers (I mean

me, of course) to leap from his seat

and cry "Action!" at any moment,

with the cameras turning like the eyes in my head

that roll now and again to look at her

wearing white jacket and skirt

that donāt quite match, silk turquoise blouse

that does match her enormous eyes

(she just got off at 57th and Eighth)

and Iām lucky enough to have been handed

this piece of paper twenty minutes ago

by one of those guys in the street I always

go out of my way to take a leaflet from,

an advertisement for 45th Street Photo,

on the back of which Iāve just written this poem




By Bill Zavatsky



Shadow of a bee zig-zagging through the grass,

then the apparition of the bee itself, whirling around me

the way, a moment ago, uncapping my pen to write,

three crazed sparrows flew above my head, chirping,

wings awhir, in and out of the iron fence points.

Everythingās waking up, 10:17 a.m. The street sweeper

whirls its brushes along the curb, tossing out

more leaves and trash than it sucks in.

Whatās that big black hearse doing in the middle

of 90th Street, parked like the black shadow

of something terrible hovering in the air, something

we are not permitted to see, though we know it is death

with its big black arms like doors thrown open

to receive us in cool October sunlight, beneath the bluest sky.

A lady pushing a baby carriage stares through the fence bars.

"Flowers," she says in a deep voice, as if

she were half asleep. But I want the shadows.

Shadows and sunlight . Last warm autumn sun

with its hand upon my neck as I write,

stroking me almost, almost saying, "Good boy, Bill,

good boy," because thatās what the sun whispers

all summer until the cold comes to make us

feel as if we were bad, bad, and punishes with wind.

But now the wind is gone, though I can see the grass

shake in a little breeze, and on my face and ears

I too can feel the air. The tree which stands up

so straight and tall in front of me is a good boy, too,

for waving in the breeze, for stretching toward the blue sky

balancing so neatly at the edge of the apartment house

outlining the other, bigger trees, managing

to hold the sunlight in its skinny arms

a few last moments, like a boy holding a girl

at the beach, when the sun is almost gone,

falling asleep far away in the sea, the way

summerās memoryās nearly left me.



By Bill Zavatsky

Listening to the poets

that I love

introduce their poems,

talking the air

into images with their

beautiful hands, like flying sculptures,

we learn, as they

explain a little

(or a lot)

at long last what they mean!

What I want

is to stand up

right in the middle

of one of those

stunning explanations,

I want to shout

to the poet, over the heads

of the shocked crowd:

"Why didnāt you put

those brilliant things

you just said

into your poem

in the first place?"

Why don't the poets

that I love

listen to me when I insist

that the footnotes

to the poem

be in the poem,

(like facts embedded

in the stream)--

all the little pebbles

that hold the water

that runs over them

in place...

Volume 8 Index