from Break of Day, the Great City
by Jason Koo
Sunlight and shadows on the page.
The feeling of the present moment, light blue veins
Of words on the underside of the page.
Stillness in the garden. Sirens. A helicopter.
Flowers, fire escapes, leaves of trees, the years of them
Just here, a history.
Yesterday, memories, today
Vacuity, a pleasant emptiness, a looking around
Dumbly, no I present, just a body
With flowing eyes, hand with moving pen.
Ears making sounds.
Now thoughts—marriage, mother and father
Of the bride, sister, the long years of that stretching out,
How might it develop?
She wakes after him on a Friday
And comes out to the garden to say good morning.
He pulls hairs off her sleep pants.
Let’s have eggs, he says.
Do we have any eggs? she says.
We have one egg, he says.
Thinking of the shape of it resting on the wide top shelf
Of the refrigerator, ready to roll anywhere
At any moment, a smooth, clean wobbling of possibility.
Men are working on the building next door
Like a giant tooth that hasn’t been brushed
In a very long time. A light rain falling,
Feathering my face as I look up in judgment,
Some errant spray from the nozzle of water
Stuck in the mouth of the neighborhood
By the airborne dental technician standing by
To clear away the blood and the muck.
This tooth is hurting. All the cavities
Of windows festering for years, opening up
Lanes to the nerves of human lives inside.
The men stop at each window, hammering
And drilling. The nerves are throbbing inside,
Or by now they’ve all been novocained
By the noise. I can barely stand it in my garden
Below, up at 7:30 AM to read and write
And enjoy my coffee and already they’re at it
From several wooden scaffolding stations
Climbing up and down the tooth by rope.
This tooth just did too much stewing
In the sugar of snowflakes over the years,
Too much washing shit down with acid city rain.
And now it, all of us are paying the price.
I remember the dentist I went to last year
For a root canal who after the procedure
Couldn’t get the crown to fit right, three times
Putting that icky clay mold in my mouth
To measure the fit and three times getting it
Wrong, once the crown actually squirted out
From between his fingers as he was pulling it off
And it nearly went down my throat. Eventually
I paid a cosmetic dentist in Manhattan $1500
Out of pocket to get the crown right, an Asian man
With many degrees, new gadgets, technicians
And a newsletter. Sometimes you have to pay
So you don’t get drilled on for the rest of your life.
Thinking today of the quiet of mornings, the lovely quiet in which you can hear your pen moving, the little popping of the bubbles in the cappuccino beside you. A studious quiet in which nothing else matters but your self, your life, getting those things down. No judgment, no remorse. No self-consciousness—yet. You read Henry Miller and take flight inside yourself, or perhaps to yourself, find yourself again, that open awe of being, pure living consciousness. Funny how just an hour ago you were swearing at the cappuccino machine and telling your girlfriend it was useless that you made, or tried to make, two coffees, because you only poured water for one and now couldn’t get the cap off to pour more in and she was already leaving for work. And this frustrated pour, this inability to unleash—wasn’t this an image of your self? Trying to pour two cups but only measuring the water for one, you diffidently measure and end up crammed. And now the full hot pour into prose, no worrying about the lines on the cup. So much measuring and calculation over the past year, so much planning and projection, all the figures, addition and subtraction and multiplication, the percentages, the balancing, the fuck-you-in-your-real-self crap. And the turbulence beneath that, the need for that other life of underworldly delirium, the intimation of new empire. Always on the cusp of that other life, that anti-self your truest, most transcendental appearance. Lately you wake up thinking of it, or her, the pronoun just a stand-in, a momentary image representing a whole line of conquests just borders of a self you’re trying to obliterate.