Manhattan, here I come


I was in New York once before. At the time, my childhood friend Vartan was living in the city. I was on a cruise ship and by some random glitch, I was unable to get off the ship when we had a day out on the town planned with him and my Canadian friend Sarah.

Next thing I knew I had a plane out of New York and some hours to see Vartan before that. I ended up napping in his Queens apartment, then having some lunch with him when he came back from class and finally riding to JFK.

I saw Times Square and all that from a bus that took me from the harbor to JFK, before I went to Vartan´s. I also saw the Statue of Liberty and the Manhattan skyline from Cape Liberty many times, but that was all the New York I ever got.

It is a special occasion to be going back to the city for my film premiere. The more so, since there is a chance that I will also be having poetry readings with my poetic soulmate Cecilia Martínez-Gil, a Santa Mónica-based Uruguayan poet.

If these poetry readings we are working on putting together finally come through, I guess I should read some of the poems I wrote to the city, as I looked at it from Cape Liberty and remembered the falling towers and the Baghdad invasion, and it almost felt better to have that perspective and see it all from outside, thinking that Manhattan couldn´t look more beautiful seen from anywhere else but that nondescript harbor across the bay.

Here is a taste of what was going through my heart and mind back then.

 

my vision of towerfall New York, as it ended up on the cover of my poetry book

 

Cape Liberty (Cape Liberty, Spring 2006)

The cities are the same
everywhere in the world
and I despise them 

I don´t need television
cruise ships
missions to Mars
cars that can talk
boardwalks with telescreens
Wireless technology
wireless hearts
estranged from soil
and history

New York, Paris,
Algiers, Baghdad
always the bombs
always the cars
the electricity
the wireless
the disconnected hearts

I saw the line of
buildings
of New York city
across the Bay
from Cape Liberty

and it was
as if I´d seen a ghost
the black grim clouds
of March
a vision of the smoke
from the two towers

Unreal
to see these clouds
as having seen
the crash
across the bay
from Cape Liberty

A fantasy
fit for Hollywood

I saw the lines of
buildings
I saw the city
of New York
and the green worn Statue
across the bay

the City of the world
the heart of finance
if finance ever had a heart
the measure of success

the Empire State building
parting its seas

I have sailed
under Brooklyn Bridge
and I saw the fire
on the TV
overlooking the Hill
of Montevideo
el Cerro sin luces de la tarde

Montevideo
the most beautiful of all

and still
I know
cities
everywhere the same

I despise them all
and wish to go back
to long walks
in the garden
and fresh fruit
from trees

I long for the simple
beauty of the past
when every land
had its own music
every village and kingdom
its own
beating heart

Not this
of the West
Where every city
is the same

and every one
saves

a hiding place
for missiles

a secret prison
for people that don´t exist

Red ink inside the back cover of Stories of Paul Bowles (Cape Liberty, Spring 2006)

 

I saw New York through a

fence and was

appalled by small

red men

in orange vests

advising me

not to sit in the sun

not to go near the water

lest I should

break the law

 

The green mossy

weary

Statue of Liberty

looming in

the too familiar skyline

forever linked

to falling buildings,

and faded Hope

 

The Statue

too late for liberty

too late for sunshine

 

and the wrong day

for reading

my Paul Bowles

in the sun

 

my Savage Beauty

life of Vincent Millay

 

who once

lived in New York

and felt the lure

and this same dread

 

Too many men

in orange vests

 

too much of bush

and not one tree

the faded Forest

too much of bridge

and not the sea

 

This fake New York

That someone painted over the clouds

so passengers from cruise ships

would feel so grand

to stand amid

this rubble heap

 

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