There's too little time left to measure
the space between us for that was
long ago--that time--so just lie
under the dark blue quilt and put
the fat pillows with the blue slips
on the great windowsill so we can
look over them and down to the
small figures hurrying by
in total silence and think of the heat
up here and the cold down there
while I turn the light off with the right
hand and gather you in close with the wrong.
Maybe my fiftieth or my sixtieth birthday
awoke to my hearing from harbor and neighbor wood
and the mussel-pooled and the heron-priested shore
though I wasn't the first animal up that day
and someone threw a ten-cent cigar at me,
just what this country needed
and someone surprised me with a chocolate cake
yellow inside, pink at the layers, with two
accusing candles, twisted and edible,
myself to set foot in the still-sleeping town and set forth.
Bess, Zickel, Warhol, Arendt
Aunt Bess died from forgetting and when I
visited her at her last apartment she kept
asking me if I had eaten and poured
bowl after bowl of Rice Krispies for me though
I might add no banana, no milk
no sugar and most of all, no spoon.
And Zickel, my bewildered cousin, who suffered from
spinal curvature and dwarfism
both of which kept him in his small chair
in his little room down the hall and like the prophet
he was named for he fell down from his trances
and he was given to Utopian thinking
and lived by an old canal like the first one.
And there was a kind of Warholian laughter
which Andy and I used to resort to
walking across the 7th Street Bridge
now the Warhol Bridge--the Allegheny River--
though there is no Gerald Stern Bridge anywhere
nor Michel Foucault nor Jacques Derrida.
And Hannah Arendt--I'm sure you remember her--
who went back to her lover her teacher in a
peasant's hut in the Black Forest and wept
in his arms as he in hers as he brushed the crumbs
from her Hebrew lips with his Nazi fingers
and published his last explanation in Der Spiegel
after his death in 1976.
All poems by Gerald Stern, from Galaxy Love, W. W. Norton, copyright 2017, reprinted with the permission of the publisher and the author.
Gerald Stern has been awarded the National Book Award, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Wallace Stevens Award, the Robert Frost Medal and many other prizes.