Tag Archives: poet

American Sonnet.

8 Aug

American Sonnet
Billy Collins

We do not speak like Petrarch or wear a hat like Spenser
and it is not fourteen lines
like furrows in a small, carefully plowed field

but the picture postcard, a poem on vacation,
that forces us to sing our songs in little rooms
or pour our sentiments into measuring cups.

We write on the back of a waterfall or lake,
adding to the view a caption as conventional
as an Elizabethan woman’s heliocentric eyes.

We locate an adjective for the weather.
We announce that we are having a wonderful time.
We express the wish that you were here

and hide the wish that we were where you are,
walking back from the mailbox, your head lowered
as you read and turn the thin message in your hands.

A slice of this place, a length of white beach,
a piazza or carved spires of a cathedral
will pierce the familiar place where you remain,

and you will toss on the table this reversible display:
a few square inches of where we have strayed
and a compression of what we feel.

if you can make it here…you’ll be trapped, and you don’t want that.

13 Oct

Lovely, isn’t it? That skyline, those tall, majestic buildings, the whole island thing.

But it’s not. It’s not lovely. It’s dirty, and impersonal, and smelly/stinky, and there are rats and roaches everywhere, and it’s…it’s…

I have fallen out of love with New York City.

My love began when I was eight years old, when my family emigrated to the Americas as a family, leaving Ghana behind and ready to embark on a brand new life in the States. After a flight from Ghana with a memorable night’s stay in Holland (I still remember!), we landed in New York. I recall gazing out of the window as we hurtled down the street in my uncle’s car, amazed by all the sights and sounds and people and colors. What was this curious new place? Where did it come from? My little mind was sweetly blown.

The love of the city began there. It didn’t stop after we moved to Suburbia Place, Somewheres, VA, either. As a family, we came back and visited whenever we could; we did the tourist thing and went to the Statue of Liberty, the World Trade Center (still can’t believe it), the Empire State Building, etc., etc. As I got older, I returned on my own, more times than I can count. Ultimately, my little sis moved to the Big City, which provided even more viable reasons to frequently visit. Bottom line: I was still eight years old and I was still awed by NYC.

Not anymore. Backstory: I just returned from a 7-day trip to NYC with a bunch of friends as part of a tour group that a mutual friend planned (5 days with the tour group, 2 with my sis). We went to the Met, we hung out and met new friends, we took a harbor cruise with a tour guide who provided quite a bit of interesting information about the city (my inner history geek collapsed from the sheer joy/future wins at Trivial Pursuit of it all), we took tons of pics, so on and so forth. Those parts were fine. Enjoyable.

The other parts: commuting by way of the subway, which is arguably the grossest, most disgusting place this side of Planet Earth; gazing at the vacant, uninterested demeanors of the people that live in the city (are they dead inside? How can anyone appear so empty?); hearing the foul-mouthed conversations of the other people that live in the city (seriously, did no New Yorker learn how to communicate without using the foulest language ever known?); being shoved and pushed and accused of hitting a woman’s child with my purse (yeah, there were 1,000 people shoved in one train car. It wasn’t intentional, Madam); standing on feet that were burning against the rough, cement ground; Newark, New Jersey (no explanation necessary); it went on and on. I honestly wanted to scream. Each day carved away at my love of the city. I was becoming utterly put off and eventually, I was over it.

Maybe it was because I was there for an extended period of time. Maybe it was because I wasn’t just in Manhattan (tourist heaven), but in Brooklyn and nearby in “the Garden State” (yeah, right) of New Jersey. Maybe it was because I was sampling the day-to-day of living in the city. Maybe it was because I was realizing that it wasn’t the Emerald City of my youth. Maybe, maybe, maybe. I don’t know. I do know that off came the rose-colored glasses, and on came the countdown until my exit from the city. I’m home now and it’s blissful.

Will I return? As long as the sis is there, yes. Will I leave her apartment while I’m there? Absolutely not. Yes, I plan on going hardcore Howard Hughes on NYC when I happen to return. Sorry, Lincoln Center, Fifth Avenue, Madison Square Garden, Central Park, and the rest. Sorry, lovely Brooklyn brownstones that housed the Huxtables. You’re not enough for me anymore. Goodbye and good night.

Ending on a downer? I won’t. I have to say that during the main part of the trip, we got to go to a Poetry Show. In short, I was moved, inspired, amazed, touched, provoked by endless ruminating and thoughts. It was pretty incredible. By the end of it, I appreciated the fact that yes, I’m a poet. I have constantly resisted this title, as discussed here before, believing that my purposes for writing poetry, that of catharsis and getting it all off my chest, meant that I was just somewhat adept at a few lines and a few haikus. Hardly a poet. And with my strengths lying more in fiction and prose, I was even less of a poet. Well, no, thank you. I’m a poet, too. So there, self. The show was one of the other, few enjoyable parts of the trip. (We’re keeping it real negative, aren’t we?)

For my readers: have you had this experience? Have you fallen out of love with a place or thing?



Sincerely, Taj

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