Nov. 30, 2010: NEW YORK POEM (Terrance Hayes)

Well, it was bound to happen. Sooner or later some guy I used to play basketball with was gonna get a poem published in the New Yorker. The funny thing about Terrance Hayes is that not only was he a hard-working poet during his days at Pitt, he also mopped up the floor with all his opponents in basketball. He’s a good 6-8 inches taller than me, and he could shoot. The only person I know brave enough to guard him regularly was MV member Steve Bailey, and I think even Steve would admit the dude was a force.

So I see this poem, and I think, that’s great. Terrance was probably the only poet I’ve seen open a reading with a “cover” of another poet (it happened to be a Allan Ginsburg poem that had also appeared, posthumously, in the New Yorker), and now he’s “made it.” Certainly this is the best news he’s received in November. Ah, no. Turns out his 4th collection just won the National Book Award. So there’s that.

Knowing what we know, can you see how Paul Muldoon, poetry editor of the NYer, might like this piece? It’s fancy and rhyme-y, but with an intimacy of feeling and vocabulary that bear out the poet’s anagram, “Chat nearer. Yes.”


In New York from a rooftop in Chinatown
one can see the sci-fi bridges and aisles
of buildings where there are more miles
of shortcuts and alternative takes than
there are Miles Davis alternative takes.
There is a white girl who looks hi-
jacked with feeling in her glittering jacket
and her boots that look made of dinosaur
skin and R is saying to her I love you
again and again. On a Chinatown rooftop
in New York anything can happen.
Someone says “abattoir” is such a pretty word
for “slaughterhouse.” Someone says
mermaids are just fish ladies. I am so
fucking vain I cannot believe anyone
is threatened by me. In New York
not everyone is forgiven. Dear New York,
dear girl with a bar code tattooed
on the side of your face, and everyone
writing poems about and inside and outside
the subways, dear people underground
in New York, on the sci-fi bridges and aisles
of New York, on the rooftops of Chinatown
where Miles Davis is pumping in,
and someone is telling me about contranyms,
how “cleave” and “cleave” are the same word
looking in opposite directions. I now know
“bolt” is to lock and “bolt” is to run away.
That’s how I think of New York. Someone
jonesing for Grace Jones at the party,
and someone jonesing for grace.



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