I spent my childhood in Ohio and Maryland,
but for most of my life I’ve lived in Manhattan.
The name comes from the language of the Lenape people,
recorded in the ledger of Henry Hudson’s ship, Half Moon, in 1609: Manna-hata.
“the place where they gather wood to make bows”–
the Lenape valued the hickory trees of Manhattan.
My first residence was a dorm room on West 27th Street;
My first job was in a clothing store on Lexington Avenue.
The Number 1, the 42nd Street Shuttle, and the Number 6–
those were my first subway lines in Manhattan.
My work offices were mostly in the Garment Center on Broadway,
but one was on the Avenue of the Americas in Manhattan.
When I freelanced most of my clients were located between 34th Street and 42nd Street–
but I also worked for people in the West Village, on the Lower East Side, and in Soho in Manhattan.
I have lived on or near West 21st, 27th, 82nd, 95th, 111th, 113th, 135th, 152nd, and 162nd Streets,
and on Bank Street, Hudson Street, Broadway, and West End Avenue in Manhattan.
Clinton Street was where I lived in Brooklyn–
but it didn’t take me long to return to Manhattan.
The Garment District, the West Village, Chelsea, the Upper West Side, Morningside Heights, Harlem, Hamilton Heights, and Washington Heights—
those are the regional names of the places I’ve lived in Manhattan.
I have always wondered if my Dutch ancestors, the Van Lents, lived in New Amsterdam–
or if I am the first descendant on my mother’s side to reside in Manhattan
Sherry at earthweal asked us to consider the names “of the places most beloved to us.” I don’t think she was thinking of cities, or of numbers as names, but Manhattan island is, and has been, my home, where my history resides, for 50 years now. And many of its names are numbers.
For Thursday doors, I could only find photos of the front doors of 3 of my residences. I took the top one recently–it’s my first uptown apartment, a Columbia University building, where I moved during a transition period in my life. A former roommate, then a Columbia grad student, lived there with her roommate and a rotating series of friends and boyfriends.
Here’s the inside of the apartment door where I spent the early lockdown of the pandemic. Not very appealing. But my windows looked out on the subway and a playground and Broadway. Noisy but light.
Here’s the inside door of my apartment now–much more to my liking, even though you walk right into the kitchen. And I also have lots of light, my top priority in a living space.
My poem was inspired by Natasha Trethewey’s wonderful ghazal “Miscegenation”.
And you can join in Thursday doors here.
it’s the alone in
the dance that makes the never
knowing so complete
Amaya at dVerse asked us to consider music that brings us to tears. There are many candidates these days, but I chose Jackson Browne’s “For a Dancer” for it’s longevity and continued relevance in that department. People, places, things…they are always “dancing in and out of view”.
And a ghazal for the song as well.
In the quiet of a summer’s afternoon I think of you
in the absence that is always in this room I think of you
My mind plays tricks and mixes up the present and the past
in memories recalled and then exhumed I think of you
Bananas peaches lemons oranges strawberries and limes
in fruit that ripens and releases its perfume I think of you
I search for guidance in the symbols of mythologies and stars
in portents that appear like ghostly runes I think of you
The fiber spun and dyed the needle waiting in my hand
in threads that cross like patterns on a loom I think of you
Sometimes I seem to recognize a voice calling and turn
in the abbreviation of my nom de plume I think of you
Pay attention to the open skies.
It wasn’t heaven above surrounding me like stars
on a distant shore—I wasn’t a memory like stars
I had not become a child swimming in the sun, a sleepy
summer afternoon of endless play, swinging free like stars
Hovering in the form of an invisible crown,
it was not a hurricane holding its eye to me like stars
I was not a journey through the tunneled darkness
following the trail of all things hidden ghostly like stars
Becoming what I yet wasn’t, I crossed everywhere–
in a nameless endless shedding of all identity—like stars
A poem of wandering for Ammol at DVerse, in the current featured poetic form, ghazal. I find the form to be somewhat awkward, but I’m beginning to think maybe that’s the point of it. It mirrors the thought process. Or maybe I just need more practice at writing them.
Seeds turn into trees, eggs hatch into birds–
branches sprout new leaves, merging into birds.
Trees together stand, calling to the birds–
nourishing the land, shelter to the birds.
Roots that anchor deep, filling skies like birds–
winds that secrets keep, sailing songs like birds.
Cells divide and grow, ancestor to birds–
ebbing into flow, speaking time to birds.
Through forests dense and green, dreams scatter me into birds–
though feathers stay unseen, wings open me into birds.
It seems I missed Draw-A-Bird Day yesterday, so I’ve included them in my NaPoWriMo Day 9 post. The prompt was to relate something both large and small, and seeds and trees immediately came to mind. And so, also, birds.
The poem is sort of a ghazal. In the spirit of, anyway.
The past holds the door with the moon on my wings
between now and before with the moon on my wings.
I look to the tree with the moon on my wings
for the power of three with the moon on my wings.
The threshold unfolding with the moon on my wings,
releasing and holding with the moon on my wings.
I look to the earth with the moon on my wings
for death and rebirth with the moon on my wings.
What will be has an end with the moon on my wings
that will fade and begin with the moon on my wings.
I look to the stones with the moon on my wings
to honor the bones with the moon on my wings.
Water that flows with the moon on my wings,
stillness that grows with the moon on my wings.
I look to the air with the moon on my wings
for what is not there with the moon on my wings.
On the spiral is spun with the moon on my wings
what belongs to no one with the moon on my wings.
I create and I heal with the moon on my wings,
I hide and reveal with the moon on my wings.
Do you know me by name with the moon on my wings?
I begin and remain with the moon on my wings.
My response to Sue Vincent’s photo prompt, above. I used the ghazal form, which was a dVerse prompt last week. I had many false starts, which is why I missed the cut off to post it there. I just couldn’t find a rhythm.
The poem I ended up with sounded eerily familiar to me–like I had done something similar before. And I had–one of Jane Dougherty’s poetry prompts, for a ghazal, resulted in almost exactly the same format, and was also based in myth. “Mother of Winds”–you can see it here.
I look to the sky for the mother of winds–
asking her why, my mother of winds.
Her chariot crosses ahead of the sun–
with you I would fly, O mother of winds.
Like you I would step from the sea born anew–
black waves choke me dry, my mother of winds.
Pledged to a journey of transforming light–
dark ravens comes crying, my mother of winds.
I married the magic expecting to merge–
false troth bound to dying, O mother of winds.
And where are the children to circle me round?
aborted by lying, cruel mother of winds.
I curse and she answers with silence and ice–
the knots are untying me, mother of winds.
Jane Dougherty’s challenge this week was inspired by the painting of Dawn, above, and asked us to use the ghazal form: a series of two-line verses of the same length, with a somewhat complex rhyming scheme, both internal and line-ending. To complicate things, not everyone agrees exactly on the rules. Two very different explanations and examples of ghazal are here and here.
Dawn has many mythological sides and I incorporated some of them into my poem. Not only is she the mother of winds, some say she birthed the planets too.