Giant Night

By Anne Waldman b. 1945 Anne Waldman
Awake in a giant night
is where I am
                   There is a river where my soul,   
hungry as a horse drinks beside me

An hour of immense possibility flies by   
and I do nothing but sit in the present   
which keeps changing moment to moment

How can I tell you my mind is a blanket?

It is an amazing story you won’t believe   
and a beautiful land
where something is always doing in the barns   
especially in autumn
                         Sliding down the hayrick!

By March the sun is lingering and the land turns wet

Brooks grow loud
The eddies fill with green scum   
Crocuses lift their heads to say hello

Soon it is good to be planting
By then the woods are overflowing
with dogwood, redbud, hickory, red and white oaks,   
hazelnut bushes, violets, jacks-in-the-pulpit,   
skunk cabbages, pawpaws and May apples
whose names thrill you because you can name them!

There are quail and rabbits too—but I go on too long

Like the animal, I must stop by the water’s edge   
to have a drink and think things over

*

That was good. The drink I mean
I feel refreshed and ready for anything
Though I’m not in Vermont or Kentucky unfortunately   
but in New York City, the toughest place in the world

And it’s December

Here someone is always weeping, including me
though I tend to cry in monster waves then turn into a fish   
wallowing in my own salty
                         Puddle! Look out
If you aren’t wearing boots you’ll be sorry
and soggy too

*

This season’s cruelty hurts me
and others, I’m sure, who’d rather be elsewhere but can’t   
because of their jobs, families, friends, money
It’s rough anyway you look at it

But what can you do?

It’s worse elsewhere, I’m sure   

Take Vietnam

No thanks

I think about Vietnam a lot, however   
and wonder if I’ll ever “see” it   
The way I’ve seen Europe, I mean

Those pretty Dutch girls!   
They all ride bicycles

In Venice you travel by boat or foot

The metro and the underground register like the names   
in connection with them:

Hugo, Stephen, Stuart, Larry, Lee, Harry, David, Maxine   

What does it all mean?
I never ask that, being shy

In this apartment in which I dwell these thoughts pass by   

I hope you won’t mind the mess when you do too   

*

You just walk in up a flight and you’re in paradise

A cup of coffee, an easy chair, a loving person waiting for you   
who’s washing the dishes, reading a book

Outside someone’s worrying about love and not sitting down either

He’s probably freezing his ass off right now!
And other vital parts which would feel great in the country,   
taking a walk, a hike, shoveling snow

Though you can do that right here

*

The hub of the universe is where I am in a night whose promise   
grows with me, unlike the snow melting in the gutter

Whatever I do, it is beside me

I look out the window, there is night
I sit in this lighted room knowing this night   
Night! Night! I wish you’d go so I could go
to the post office, the bank, the supermarket

Why aren’t they open at night? I wonder   
Then realize I’m not the only person who’s   
considered in the grand scope of daily living

There are those fast asleep who want to be and would be horrified   
if the post office, the bank, and the supermarket
were only open at night
for you can’t be all there all the time
I myself am only here part of the time   
which is enough
                  For there are other places to run to

Uptown, for example, where energy rushes you   
like some hideous but intriguing chemical
you can’t ignore
and you want to absorb the wisdom these buildings have

How do they feel so high up like that?

Pretty good, they seem to say in their absolute way   
But it’s the people inside who turn us on

By then you are gone off in a cab   
and you are not alone

                        I am beside you

The streets are familiar from just traveling through   
We rarely stop and when we do there’s a reason

Which is too bad
We miss a lot for this same reason

*

They’re probably feeding the chickens about this time   
The smell of chicken feed overwhelms me
The rooster crows on a 7th Street fire escape
Breakfast is ready
                         There is a forest by the river near the barn   
where things are happening,
a whole new world on the edge of dawn

*

My little world goes on St. Mark’s Place   

To be not tired, but elated, I sing this song

I think of The Beatles and The Beach Boys   
and the songs they sing

It is a different thing to be behind the sound   
then leave it forever
and it goes on without them, needing only you and me

Here I am, though you are asleep

The morning of December 3rd dawns on me   
in the shape of a poem called “Giant Night”

It must end before it is too late

All over the world children will celebrate Christmas
And families will gather together to give and take this season

Other religions and customs will prevail in their own separate ways   
having nothing to do with Christmas

Soldiers will cease fire

Some won’t know the difference but might be able to sense it   
    in the air

The smell of holly, pine, eggnog
The friendly faces of Santa and his elves

All these will add up to something and be gone forever   

Just like what is here one minute and not the next.

Anne Waldman, “Giant Night” from Helping the Dreamer: Selected Poems, 1966-1988. Copyright © 1989 by Anne Waldman. Reprinted with the permission of Coffee House Press, Minneapolis, www.coffeehousepress.com.

Source: Helping the Dreamer: Selected Poems 1966-1988 (Coffee House Press, 1989)

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Poet Anne Waldman b. 1945

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School (2nd Generation)

Subjects Social Commentaries, Living, The Mind

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Anne  Waldman

Biography

The author of more than 40 collections of poetry and poetics, Anne Waldman is an active member of the Outrider experimental poetry movement, and has been connected to the Beat movement and the second generation of the New York School. Her publications include Fast Speaking Woman (1975), Marriage: A Sentence (2000), and the multi-volume Iovis project (1992, 1993, 1997).

Her work as a cultural activist and her practice of Tibetan . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, Living, The Mind

POET’S REGION U.S., Southwestern

SCHOOL / PERIOD New York School (2nd Generation)

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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