New York 1984

by Annie Morse

In Tompkins Square we stepped around
The junkies lying on the ground
A rockstar boyfriend briefly wooed
Me nearby, till Suzanne allured
Him thither, and he ghosted me.
In my mind’s eye, myopic now
I see the avenues’ Sunday crowd
In motley, festive, frankly mad.
The drugs they took to be less sad
Are legal now, or different drugs.

You scraped and plastered your whole place.
It was a rental; you embraced
The task as practice for a day
When your own home would look the way
You wanted. How did that work out?
How did we come to houses, yards,
Driveways to shovel, credit cards,
Snow falling, melting, always snow
Like mortgages, that grim escrow.
We left the city. Our regret
Melts like the snow, but slow as debt.


Monday Woman

Each poem is a spur
Urging me, or you, to think of Her
Comparing selves imagined or gone by
And finding oneself wanting. (Quiet sigh.)
Kathleen Fraser’s thighs are more concrete
As she reflects on them from toilet seat
Appreciating all they’ve done for her –
A gratitude unusual. That spur
Is one I’d take and run with, cantering
Toward the women talking, posing, bantering
With one another; rich beyond compare
With insight, foresight, history, aware
That every mirror is reflected in our eyes.
The mirror can be judged, we recognize.

[Kathleen Fraser, “Poem In Which My Legs Are Accepted,” 1968]


Whiskey Not

They call it whiskey, but unless it’s Scotch
It’s not what I call whiskey but a splotch
Of rotgut; you can keep your Bourbon
You can catch her in the Rye
Just tell Canadians and Irish, “in your eye,”
Even the Japanese have got into the game.
I’m telling you, for me it’s not the same.
In spirited debate we used to scoff and quaff
Perchance to spill, by accident, and laugh.
Now that it’s time for truth, I’d just as lief
Drink wine. The whiskey burning’s too intense:
First on the lips, then shame in lacking sense.