My dirt-high elbows rest atop the soil

though seeds stick still under my nails.

Be that as it may, all that’s left to do now

is watch for the rain again.

In another month

you have laid love over my life

the way a mother covers a

sleeping child with a light soft sheet

The same way rain resists

becoming a sleet.

Who better then than you to

take the hammer from my hand

and replace it with a pen?


The Gift

She wound up using seven men

cramming for the final exam,

which she felt in her gut was

a slamming-door story of love

that went:

“Twenty failing fingers couldn’t hold

drifting continents and promises taut.”

Imagine her surprise, then,

that her mastery of suspicion

was useless as her armory full of eyerolls.

That, in fact, he had only taken so long to arrive

because he had been around the world

collecting back for her the bits of herself

she had traded like cheap beads

for the love of everyone else.

And now that he was here,

how he required no more effort

than allowing him to hand her self back to her whole.

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That night her floor welcomed her criss-crossed legs,

her hands that ran against the grain as she sat

cupping in them the gravity of a decade,

the pieces of a bowl repeatedly broken.

She eyed each shard like a museum item

reciting its place in her life’s timeline,

testing an edge or two against tougher skin

and wondering how it had ever got in.

At last she joined them back together,

each part with veins of melted gold.

And when at last she saw it harden,

she put it on her mantel forever.




Mutual Friends, Subway

She is holding hands with my old friend David,

who I’ve directed on many occasions —

And Alexandre presses against a blue-jean vest

when he also rests on my bedside table.

At 8th Street Jane and Oscar and William appear,

and with them Emma and Ernest and Lear.

Near the west village, Dylan Thomas gets off,

But Scott sits with us ’til Central Park South.


Afternoon Nap

The cloud spills like milk

onto the blue tableau-cloth that covers

the earth.

But up there, no one rushes

to clean it up.

(A mistake is not

unheard of in heaven. They just

don’t punish them as much.)

And I am left praising

the empty-glassed angel, because asleep

beside me is you, passing with me

under the spreading sky.

Sky II


Three years is what it took for me

To fall in love with New York City —

I didn’t feel it, until I knew him in it.

Now that we hurdle twilight-over-cab across

The Queensboro bridge, nothing

Not even the set of skyscrapers

Window-flashing and crowned in brick

Feel as real and understood as us.

He is loved and my love is tremendous.

But it is too soon to tell him this.

Now that I can label him

As that particular red-topped pin,

The map of my conquered world

Must be redrawn.

And while it seems punishable to love with softness in a place as hard-won as this,

My love is as momentous as the city that provided the collision.


New Novel Preview: The Readiness Is All

On New York:

What they never told you about New York was that it was whatever you thought it was. It was like an experienced prostitute who always remembered to wear the lingerie you bought her, who knew what you liked and either gave it or withheld it every time you engaged her services. You molded New York to your perception of it in a way not unlike the idea some people have that heaven is what you want it to be: that you create it, deal with it, live with the consequences maybe forever. That’s why people were always writing about New York, singing about it, dreaming about it, talking about it, trying to rationalize it. It kept going because no one could ever quite figure it out. Everyone else’s description, once you heard it, left you confused and self-conscious because it didn’t completely match your own.

New York didn’t have its own meaning. It had meaning put upon it. The city possessed no identity beyond the concrete, steel, bricks, and dog shit. No soul to speak of, material or otherwise. Just the heavy velvet curtains at the Metropolitan Opera and the glazed dark tabletops of Soho and the hairy-lush lawn in Central Park, all onto which we spat our own stories as if from an old movie projector, and did it in such a thick constancy that to walk around the block was to walk through a thousand other people’s holograms. No wonder we were wired and tired. No wonder we ignored the crazy people on the subway, as tourists and babies gawked. They weren’t saying anything we weren’t thinking already.

All of us were philosopher-scientists, each with her own Theory of New York (which, some suggested, we should rename Higgs Boson City in light of its behavioral characteristics). There was nothing like consensus, no possibility of consensus on the matter, not with ten million opinions. This is blue! You shouted. This is my blue. This is the only blue. But for all your insisting, no one else saw the same shade. And, by the next moment, it was likely that you’d change your mind anyway. After seeing something beautiful or bizarre on the next street corner, you shapeshifted New York again two minutes later.

Paris could be Paris. That was a part of its shtick. But New York could be Paris too, and then Delhi, and then Shanghai if you willed it with your feet, your cab fare, with your senses and your subway pass. You learned not to trust it, after a while, and therefore you learned you couldn’t trust yourself. You moved to New York and then five or ten or twenty years after, you paused to count the years and realized that none of them had been spent in the same city, and where the fuck had you been?

Gary He

Gary He