It has never been so easy to cry
openly or to acknowledge children.
Never before could I walk directly
to the center of an island city
feeling the automatism of millions
drawing one pious breath, shouldering
the sunset, holding it up in the oily
tree-line a while longer. Years ago,
I was never sad enough and nothing
but a hotel that I could tear to pieces
and reconstruct inside a shoebox
felt like home. My parents died. Their miserable
possessions washed up in other hotels,
dioramas of the febrile romantic.
I take my first lover, already
gray at her temples and more reticent
than shy, more tacit than admiring,
to the bus stop by the Jewish Museum.
We wait in the dark a long time.
She does not kiss me. She hurries
up out of the oily street onto the humming,
fluorescent podium of the last bus
where I see her a last time, not waving
to me, not lovable, erect in the freedom
we traduced years ago in our first kiss.
Never deny the power of withdrawal.
Never doubt that thought and time make things small.
Never refuse the easy exit line or prescribed
uncomprehending gesture. At childhood’s end,
none can tell happiness from buoyancy.
None of it made any difference—
the patricides, the hotels ill-constructed,
the inconstant starlight of drugs and rebellion.
We are no more complicated
than our great-grandparents who dreaded
the hotel life. Like them, we seek the refuge
of warm days in January, a piety
whose compulsion is to survive according
to explicit laws no young woman adores
or young man follows with darling hunger.