a warm august evening on willett street. one of my neighbors asks what i’m reading. before i can answer, his partner tells him, she’s not reading. she’s writing. she’s a poet.
i tilt my head as far back as it goes and admire the crooked line against the sky made by roofs of the brownstones and the church on the corner. it is the border between the positive and negative spaces. a metaphor, if ever there were one. the vertigo of strange angles. i look away before the spinning pushes me to the ground.
i can face the brutality of the last few years, meet its eyes and acknowledge what it’s taken. i can also lay my head on the bare chest of the same time period, blush at its words for me, “sweet girl,” know there’s never any sense in trying to hold back a smile.
what i can’t do is straddle that line between them. let’s call it the hudson. there are two choices: east of it or west. there is no option to be both at once. there is no silver lining inside his disdain, no gift from the family’s betrayal, no lessons from the callousness of old friends. lucky folks are able to see the shades of gray in every argument, lie in the middle of the river and believe they are not floating between two sides, but part of a unified state.
i occupy the extremes. i am not a mostly happy woman would could tell you a few stories — i am either beating my fists against slammed doors or i am so exuberant it’s as though nothing has ever existed except The Good Life On Willett Street. i can’t see myself as one person, as a continuum of experience, as a range of emotion. of course i know, intellectually, that i am who i am because of where i’ve been. you know the light because you know the darkness. mmm hmm. yes. yes. nod. but i don’t know it in my lungs. i can’t feel it on my skin.
last night was one of my last on this stoop. i am on the move — venturing all of 2 1/2 blocks, staying in downtown albany but one street over. though there are a few detractors (yes, i do know they don’t matter), people are thrilled for me. they know how much i love my neighborhood and how much it means.
while a phantom pinched my arm and hissed in my ear in from an old voice, you’re never satisfied with what you have and you’ll never be happy anywhere, even *i* can see the move as the next poem in the same manuscript.
and though i hadn’t thought of this before, the new place is a smidge closer to the river.