Ebb Tide

Flow on, river! flow with the flood-tide, and ebb with the ebb-tide!
... Cross from shore to shore, countless crowds of passengers!
Stand up, tall masts of Mannahatta!

—Walt Whitman, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”

I .

Cradled by the music of the river,
New York citified yet never civilized.
Packed bodies jostle in the subway train,
the lights of the tunnel hypnotize me as they flash past;
a girl in a red dress bobs her head listening to Lou Reed
in her silver earphones, a black man with a gold crucifix
dangling from his ear mouths a mantra.


Once our love was strong as the steel cables
of the Brooklyn Bridge, the twin towers of granite.
I brought you breakfast from the corner deli;
Demetrios sold me two lattés and a bag of sugar
doughnuts; the hustler at the corner of 44th eyed me
as I bundled past. Steam rose from the manhole on Eighth;
my play was unfinished, our dialogue partly written;
we spoke in aphorisms.


We lunched with the ginger-haired producer at the Plaza
who had eyes for only you, as we discussed my play.
He wore classical cameos as cufflinks, fingernails polished and long.
He spoke of stock options and a knight of the theater.
We drank our martinis, and I thought of silver bullets,
powdered monkshood to mix in his portobello mushrooms.
As we emerged onto the street, a rabbi blew into a shofar,
the sound of the ram’s horn mixing with the horns of the cabs,
a smatter of sleet greased the road in a rainbow blur.


It was, as you predicted, an awesome theater.
We met the actors in their dressing rooms;
odor of greasepaint and hairspray; a lipstick-
smudged kleenex reflected in a mirror.
I felt your warm touch through your purple gloves.
I knew the dialogue needed rewriting.
The city’s lights glimmered in the East River,
the wind sang in the cables of the bridge, we felt
snow on our cheeks on the penthouse balcony.
We kissed and drank hot cocoa watching a police
helicopter. Turning from me, you said, “I’m going to
take a shower, to make myself beautiful like diced onions.”

Appeared originally in Crescent Moon Journal, Fall 2003