A weekly poem, read by the author.
Dec. 25 1997 3:30 AM



5th floor ... 4th ... 3rd ... flickering
lit numbers above an art deco door
in the brain's elevator, a polished
marble cage dropping you smoothly
to the luxurious lobby of Serenitas
Hotel--a '30s spa, a hangout
graced by Garbo and Groucho,
carpet, gleaming door sliding open
toward the
cabañas, the stucco arches,
a giant fig tree dappling the ceramics,
benevolent waiters posed artfully
by cool palmettos, invented only to
attend you. But you're not relaxing,
not yet. Conflict. Distraction. Close
your eyes now, recline in your webbed
reclining chair, try to imagine
imagining a magnetized barge floating
on the East River, attracting your terrors
like little iron filings zipping
headlong through air to settle on its deck
(But does a barge have a deck? where
exactly do your troubles land?) Oh,
you can let them go, they're bits of metal
dust flying elsewhere, until your eyelids
grow heavy, your chest is heaving
in an optimistic imitation of deep
breathing. But your left arm's cramping;
a dire tautness above your right ear;
your jaw's screwed tight as a dill pickle
jar. You'd better abandon that unseaworthy
scow, envision a soothing warm light
fills your veins instead, floods your limbs,
both your legs unravel, your ankles
angle helplessly toward heaven or hell,
evil exits by the ten toes, a drowsy
something as if something. ... Now a voice
spells deliverance from your half-head
stabbed by familiars of pain, old noisemakers
of the embroidered white pillowcase,
deliverance from Mass Avenue's repertory
company of sirens, racing racing racing,
you can't silence the one who's clashing
cymbals, who's dropping syllables, who stokes
the day's rages, the one who always co-signs
your black pages--or can you? What on earth
could you be forgetting? What's happening
to your mind's habits? What hope is there
for transformation? What vigil is this
selfish exercise interrupting? What fissure--
what fraying--loosens the fabric of fear,
of perturbation? Where are you going?
or have you arrived? You know,
this is no time for these questions,
your lit feet are fluttering,
you're sinking, diving, plummeting--

Gail Mazur's third book of poetry, The Common, was published in 1995.


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