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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 Excited 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 (2) 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 Truth. Well I certainly am not Going to just break Lines 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 not being followed 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. (3) 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 Occupied. "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 (4) 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. (5) 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. Me? 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 (6) 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. So 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 Sitting 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 Now. 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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