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Post Millennium Depression
or, a Short History of Writer's Block in America

As if it were yesterday
I can remember a time when the 
People on the subways seemed a little more
About life. Maybe it was just me
And my adrenaline and maybe I'm
Just not looking at them with the
Right eyes, maybe my time away from the city
Has relaxed my sight
And I just need to focus but: So many blank stares. The image riding
In the glass alongside me seems striking, unfamiliar.
The empty platform seems like a setup,
Reminding me of people I won't want to look at,
     Eyes whose weight I cannot bear,
     Introductory questions I cannot answer.
Any friend would talk cold, talk Vitamin C,
     Talk Echinacea, any doctor would talk virus

Talk cure
Neon orange placards on the way to work ask Quit Yet?
Sure. The bitter disappointment of tardy friends,
An express train on the local track again,
The same times, the same schedules, the same rails,
The same damn drama with the same name prevails


I wait for the bums to finish
Singing then I look up from my book to see her
Staring at me again, feeling bass heavy music
From over the ear headphones. I strain now
For her feet against the pole and I wonder
What she would say. I fear she can see. What
Do I do?
Angle my book in a little?
Write smaller?

At the next available stop
Random people come streaming in
And right there the city answers my questions for me.
And now in response to a crowded train
I've opened myself up more and
Lowered my voice. What unfocused
Eyes would be let down at an
Injured body and bad verse in prose form?

25 long years on this earth
And only now I've stopped to check the mileage.
As if it were yesterday I can remember
Saying to myself I don't want fame
I want to be discovered and now with a fresh slate
And a legitimate foundation my most comfortable stare
Is once again realized from behind trendy, curved bodies,
Designer asses at eye level.
My peers clog the closing doors in pairs
You can tell they are together by their matching coffee cups
They're jersey knit casualties in the
Poststructuralist world, calling a warm, safe hand

Well I certainly am not
Going to just break
To appear as if
I'm writing something
I hope becomes meaningful.
     I'm done, feeling the hangover more than usual
     I'm done, poking holes in shoes
     Done with the wear
     Done with the actions,
The long walks that bring me to
     This; tight paper clamped hard
     In a callused fist,
     Afraid of being followed, afraid of
At least by eyes as intense as hers.

But the city has answered that
Question for me too:
She's left the train to me with one
  quick glance
  through the closing doors
I shift seats for a lean and
  an armrest
  and a two seat buffer.

Everyone waits and looks at me.


I stand up and the car responds well:
Not a glance, not an upturned eye.
I make my way through the car,
Unable to hide the indignation and
Accusation in my eyes. I peer around newspapers and
Smell makeup. Not a word.
I tap my feet at bags that sit between Nikes. Not a word.
I crawl into walkmans and
Huff and sigh and cross my arms
And wait and wait and
Look at these people!
I know that at least I
Had figured out for myself at
The age of six or so that I was going
To be alive to see the millennium,
And I pegged my age, and wondered where would
I be, what would be happening that night?

The train can barely handle the suspense.
A few people get off at the next stop, one
Or two get on and I continue
To pace. Where have they gone? I wonder.
This city used to be our kingdom,
The subways our royal moat crashers, just
Another band of artists and blasphemous
Heroes crashing the big party.
We shared a vision and an age and
Floorspace, straining to sing through the
Cold and wind on December rooftops.
They could be anywhere on this train,
And I want to change cars to make sure they
Aren't. But I've got all these faces buried in
Paperbacks I just can't
Shake. I strain to remember 1990 flashing on
The television all the way from the top of forty second
Street, when it would have really hit in, one
More decade, here we go.

Then a lot happened:
Seattle showed up and got everyone depressed
So whe chose a president that we thought would
Make us feel a little better
I finally made it through high school,
And college, and it wasn't as rough as
It appeared at first, nor as long,
And things seemed to be rolling.
When Y2K came along everyone got
Worried but excited, because we thought
Something might actually happen for once
And it was getting feverish
A good feverish

Where were these people? These passengers?
Certainly they held their own parties.
As if it were yesterday I can remember them
As early as that summer, 1999,
Where this kind of late night
Commute silence was unthinkable.
But then things began to change. Dissent
Creeped in
As the no-year-zero crowd came out
The Y2K thing seemed under control all of
A sudden, the Millennium Woodstock was a flop
And we were getting ready to pick another
President, and that was important, but far away
Still, everyone seemed just plain old

"You remember," I say to this one
Girl who looks up and promptly
Gets off the train. With a few others.
I watched it all morning and all
Day, First dancing hula girls on Millennium Island,
Sydney afire, The odor of Yanni all over Giza,
A glowing Champs Elyssess, Broken London,
Dancing New York,
And finally, sealing it all, Silent Seattle,
Official Celebration cancelled by vague terrorist
Threats, limp Space Needle, payback for Nirvana.
And where were my instant win dreams?
But I was there, I say, "I was king!"
In Times Square,
The ball fell, the fireworks did their thing,
And I went home after it was over,
Twelve fifteen,
God awful sad and shit pissed at the world


At that I look up and see the car empty.
No more stops, no more people
To drive. Nobody was there
To tell me if I had actually said that line
Out loud but the message
Was not missed.

And it's probably just as well.


We all could have shaken hands then and there,
Bt there were to be no victors in this war.
Soon after, just long enough to be convincing,
My brothers and sisters in arms
Scattered themselves all over the city and the Northeast
And even the country in some cases.
Wisconsin, Upper West Side, Chicago, Augusta Maine
Portland Maine, Brooklyn,
Washington Heights, Westchester, Albany.
The names attached to those cities
Read back in my mind like a roll call
Of honor, persons of historical significance.
We all knew them. You all
Knew them.

And I worried about this for a great while,
Licking my wounds for ten months miles
Away from home, trying to figure out

what the hell happened.

And I figured it out, and
I made it home, and
A lot of them too, from
The scattered reports I hear from the various fronts
Now and then. Not exactly made it home
As in New York City
But found their home maybe somewhere else,
So yeah,
I guess they did make it home.

There's no seat for me on this train anymore,
But I've got my straight face on real good:

The straight line I draw under my feet as I walk,
The repeating of meaning and oath and bringing
Those words back to life, the way
I talk, the sounds that fill these ears that
Are my choice

And I,
For the first time,
Not to remind that there's someone, somewhere
Who hasn't sold silence out to a vision
Between the sheets of a warm bed
Or the sharp profile of skin against beige wall,
Moving, stirring, climbing up stairs
And sounding alarms from the ceiling above my head,
And I,
To Chicago, who has just celebrated her
Twenty-first, pursuing her jazz theater with
A well earned clear head,
And I,
To Brooklyn, who has opened his guitar
Case to the public at large,
Apparently, finally,
And I, To Washington Heights, and every one of
His disconnected phones,
And angry suburban answering machines,
And I,
To Albany, with another happy birthday,
To state and planet hopping with a spare bus ticket,
Wild dreams of New Orleans and Henry Miller,
And his name in ink after last call,
And I,
To the Upper West Side,
Caught between her floor and my sky,
Not waiting for her never to return,

And I,
I call down the war


This is the way it has been for a while,
And these are the scars I carry:
It's the poet at his desk, afraid of
Writer's block: Imagine how absurdly depressing
This is for a writer. As a species we take great pride
In the abstract usefulness of our work to society.
We understand that everyone
Doesn't fully get or appreciate
It we say Hey,
Fine. We
Understand. But when the writing isn't
There it sometimes makes one
Empathize with them. It's maddening.
Everything becomes stale. Our readers
Say we write over and over about
The same things, yet it seems like
There's nothing new and there never will be and
Oh, then comes the fear that
The skill is slowing down, that
Someday all the drinks and the ex-girlfriends
And the passion and excitement will end, that
There will be nothing worth getting that upset
About that you have no choice but to write it.

But, just like that sometimes,
That fear slows down too.

This is the way it has been for a while:
New battle plans etched in fading ink
On the back of grocery receipts
Hang above desks
(and all over the city I'm sure)
With newspaper stained thumbprints
Visible underneath
Invisible tape
Often a stray hair,
Piece of me
As well
And it reminds, all right
But in-between crashed programs and
Fretting about hard drive space
I wonder what Blake would think

Across rooms under sloped ceilings
And strands of overdue Christmas lights
Lovers dream of other planets
Under blankets and a
Curtain-screened light
That would have made Vermeer cream

I pass the time with full time days
Unlimited subway passes
Cross-legged, the sides of my feet straddling
The faded orange line, my back to the spine of
This place, and I put my bag
To the side and
My eyes forward and down and most
Importantly, steadily,
Stake my claim to the title, or description,
Of waiting. Visions of boredom and comfortable
Chairs and fingernails coming on
To my teeth are all I've got

So you say you want another renaissance?
Ignore nothing
Save everything
Stretch your rust off
For now that we have gathered our ammo,
We have no choice to bring it to
The front. Confrontational declaration
Validates, vulgar visions of truth
Construct a majority, the establishment prevails
And art becomes another stain on the wall.
Cities get blamed. Mayors get phone calls.
My already dazed warriors become confused.
We watch the papers and the permanent marker
Scrawl on the freshly painted subway tile
But no news.
An abrupt hush falls over the spectators.

See? We live in practical silence. But, we will
See, we will meet in the place where there
Is no darkness.

Though we are not spoken,
to or of,
We are still woven:
You can take it with you
when you go and you and I

Will. We were promised an apocalypse
and we plan to collect.

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