Equilibrium, Partial Loss Of

I wrote this poem a couple years ago and posted it sometime last year. This morning, a petition came to my attention. The petition asks the Landmarks Preservation Committee to reject a proposal for 9-story hotel that would go up next to a preserved 19th Century home, the Merchants House Museum. I signed the petition, and I hope you will, too (sign here!), especially if you’re a New Yorker or feel a special connection to this city.

Equilibrium: Partial Loss Of

The first time I saw the East Village
I got depressed
The couple I knew were barely getting by
In their hovel, living as they were on food stamps
And some kind of crazy aspirations.
Their kids played games in streets
Littered with condoms and crack vials;
These kids, I thought:
Do they even know what a lawn is?


Around that time I met an actor,
A young guy who was making it big
Off Broadway, pulling in enough bread
To buy a place on a block of Great Jones Street
In a building that stood alone like a weed
Who would want to live there?
I’ll tell you who: a guy smart enough to see which way
The wind was blowing.

But still.

My Village was west of Astor Place,
I only ventured east when necessary:
Like if someone I knew was in a show at La Mama,
Or friends were playing in Tompkins Square Park
For free.

(I did once buy some dresses
From an East Village designer in his tiny shop
Who went on, years later, to host a TV show.

And I never did understand why the Hell’s Angels
Should rule an entire block
But I knew enough to cross the street.)

Recently I found myself at Astor Place,
Not having been there in quite a while,
Looking south from the subway entrance,
The one that sort of looks like Paris,
And there, where the sad, the untethered
The hustling, the hooked
The merely poor,
Used to sell cast-off clothes,
Jewelry, records, and junk
And had done so since forever,
Rose the clean, curving planes of a Chase bank,
Which had pushed the parking lot bazaar
Clean out of existence.

That bank stopped me in my tracks.

When I was done with staring,
I headed down Cooper,
Unsteady on my feet,
Holding onto the old Carl Fischer building
For balance, but its windows showed
A room filled with exercise bikes
Wheeling over the ghosts of sheet music.
And there, on the left, a tower of glass
Undulated crazily skyward
Squeezed next to a tiny and
Old, very old building,
Which I ran over and threw my arms around.
Dear tiny old building!

There was nothing to do
But keep moving,
Heading for the F at Broadway-Lafayette,
Although it felt as if some bit of me,
Like a small, not very essential, internal organ,
Had fallen right out. And what could I do,
But leave it behind,
To be swept away by the next rain,
Or kicked around by passing feet
Till it was no longer anything at all?

Approaching West 4th I looked
Across Lafayette,
Fearful of what I might not see.
But there it was: Phebe’s
Still there. Still standing.
Still beer and I don’t remember what.
Still no “o”

And I exhaled.
And continued on my way.

– – –
© Andrea Wolper 2010


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