Two Poems


Harry Newman


two mad women on the subway today
one heading into town talking and laughing
with the empty seat across from her
leaning forward then rocking back
nodding with delight again and again

on my way home the other stiff with anger
cursing and muttering shouting in outbursts
shit! so much money then switching
to Mandarin and maybe another language
one of her own devising before starting again

I’m in the seat across this time and
I think how close I came to this
riding these same cars walking for days
through the city folders of poems in a bag
their pages fraying until the words wore off

stopping at windows of restaurants
looking through myself in the glass mouths
moving inside me no one seeing I’m there
I couldn’t use the word home for years
even after I’d found one but would say
the place I’m living or where I’m staying

and even now when you’re asleep
I spend the night sometimes walking
through the apartment everything dark
talking to myself reminding myself
until I’m standing at a window looking
through my reflection waiting for it to fade


there is no archaeology of loss
memory leaves only the lightest
of traces and even lines like these

left on paper fade the few marks
we have more than our bones
to show the path we took here

how many words remain for me
how much thought to form them
when fingers fail as they do now

already moving of their own accord
as I write adding lines letters
changing meaning as if forming

a script of their own the secret
language of knuckle nail we survive
only as long as our words carry us

life is a kind of larceny a series
of small thefts growing bolder with
time and soon enough everything

falls through our hands never to be
recovered how often do I wake now
from sleep without dreams or images

or lines blank in the darkness
remembering nothing I think then
of the middens at archaeological sites

the dark places of the ground where
everything organic has decayed only
fragments shards remaining what parts

of dreams are left there what marks
do they leave behind them the hard
shards of hope in dreams forgotten
or lost or that never came to be