The Russian Senior Building. Newark, NJ
Those who are younger-younger play their bingo,
those older-older dance their tango,
while the tan hallway rolls its carpet toward
the elevator with no final flight.
Stop – those revolving won’t all stop together
as they would want. As we would, I gather.
But – look: no, seriously, I’m no coward –
I just can’t stand fluorescent light.
All talking – stop! We just repeat verbatim.
(Remember – soul? Sounds like Art Tatum).
These hawks are going vegan
and their descent is slow.
I love them all, look up at them, unfolding
their otherworldly plumage, wings of matchless molding –
in sunset dust when feathers – stiff, unyielding –
The 40-watt bulb swings – a hallway prefect –
while present turns into past perfect,
and perfect weather rolls, unopened, westward,
to that shining, shining clasp.
For Carol Frost
So clearly they flow,
the diamond days of flu,
a caravan –
and I am ten – or nine? – Celsius, and they flow like
other people’s windows flow
for a pedestrian whose shoes and soles are way too thin for Moscow winter nights.
I see them, facets of fever.
No school today, I am sick,
at home with grandma,
she’s playing pots and pans there, one empty continent,
one floating room away.
Diamonds – sunset procession on the wall,
as if someone has changed the wallpaper – in a never ending
pattern, flow onto the floor – mosaic of rectangles – warm,
dusty – just a forearm away,
and on the floor – a tray with tea,
a copy of Bleak House, where things are going wrong.
Then – ice-cold Celsius in my hot hand,
thin silver thread inside:
turn this way – shines, turn that way – disappears…
Ah, I’ve dropped… it – tiny shiny balls rush away – they hide
in crevices between the parquet blocks…
I try to catch them – no,
they join the old ones from the thermometer
I dropped when I was eight –
they run away, collide, and break into small groups,
like characters in Dickens
or, rather like those evening TV spies —
Americans or Germans, quick to leave — one spy after another – then
meet in London (which almost looks like London), and outwit
all but that alluring actor – my parents know his name
— an open Slavic face –
quick silver – Soviet spy –
they’ll never get him.