New Haven, Connecticut
Published in the Raleigh Quarterly
Persons living in New Haven, then, lived
Relatively normal lives—however,
They may have had bald spots on their head,
Among their eyelashes, pubic hair, or brows.
They may have suffered XYZ affairs.
I roomed with a sleuth of über
Vegetarians—these wouldn't eat meat
Or goose eggs or coffee grounds or greens.
They were becoming skilled with squeegees.
I was studying for The Gap. Next-door
Was Enclavia, a domicile for exchange
Students whose countries of origin were
No longer powered. Lake, a young woman
From the Republic of Bouillon gave lessons
In sweater folding following the ways
She learned in a fretshop in Greenwich.
"Use nimble phrasing and rubato
Delivery," she advised. In exchange,
I escorted her to the a cappella
District for broiled martinis. Our favorite
Group was Maximum Gorky, a sestet
That sang cereal jingles. In New Haven,
Then, chucking apples at someone
Was considered the finest possible praise.
We carried a rucksack of Delicious
And Macs, just in case. We strolled along
The boardwalk to watch the harbor fill
With man o' war. Lake's brother was cramming
To become a Jellyfish Master, so
She knew a thing or three about bio-
Luminescent proteins. Windrows of green
Driftwood peppered the strand. In the rushes
We found a widowed Doc Marten.
She packed it with our fruit. "My roommate's
Training to be a foot-sizer." I nodded
And brushed my hand against her thigh.
"It's late in the afternoon," Lake said,
"I wouldn't mind a warm pie in the face."
Have I mentioned that I was a little
In her thrall? This was, after all,
New Haven, then, and she was odd job
And out to lunch and late to school.
Lake wore animal print mini-skirts, but
Her hair was piled in a librarian's bun
With opalescent chopsticks for hatpins.
She always wore satin evening gloves
To protect her hands from the tart air.
At the singing club we met her comrades
From the Window Washing Academy.
"The saddest thing in the world is to fall
Off the world's second tallest building,"
Said Biff. The others concurred. "I began
At the bottom," said Candy, "polishing
My family's glass-bottomed boat, then
I moved to looking glass, crystal balls, stock
Ticker machines." The others concurred.
I watched Lake and Biff go off to the corner
To compare rope burns. Butterfly!
Just in time, Max Gorky took the stage,
And sang, "The 'nilla Crunchkins Rag":
When one sad 'nilla bean seeks out
Another sad 'nilla bean, then
He's happy as a tweaker's snout.
I grabbed the steel-toe and beamed the basso
Profundo in the nose. What more could I do?
Our air was brown! Our sea was green! I was blue!
That was New Haven, then, when we were all
Being taught to expect more or less.