Aggression and hustle in NYC turns into “ambition.”
Recently I was listening to The Daily’s podcast titled “A Bit of Relief: I Forgive You, New York.” While I wrote my own poem before I heard this 10 minute ode to the Big Apple from Roger Cohen, I’ve found both of these pieces to hold a kind of yearning for a tomorrow, where we are grateful for even the smallest of things or the most common, everyday sights, smells, and acts. Aggression and hustle in NYC turns into “ambition.” The rats on the street are beautiful because they are a part of our natural system of life, as necessary as cherry blossoms blooming in Central Park.
This quote has stayed with me during quarantine:
“We overwater a plant and it dies. Love is like death because it is so strong.”
Perhaps this time is to realize who is really there. Which connections are the strongest, and which connections need more work. This time feels like the seven stages of grief in a way. We are all mourning something. But maybe in the future we can turn this love into even more abundance, where we take time in bettering our relationships instead of working 24/7. The “cease of our city’s hum” will return. And we need to take it in like a new breath, a new start, and a new birth of opportunity instead of obstacle.
When They Ask Me What Will Be the First Thing I Do After “This is Over”
I do not know what it feels like
to give birth to a child.
But right now there is a sound sizzling
every night at 7 pm
across New York
and stickered bus benches
for doctors, nurses, everyone
everyone on the front lines
City as an entire
City stopping to make the same motion at the same time:
A ten-year-old clapping while her moon-landing puzzle pieces cartwheel across the woven rug
A 45-year-old mother clapping while her tomatillo soup sings, her engagement ring a ballet not of being found but of finding someone who sees
A 98-year-old great-grandfather clapping, standing at his window with his bent cane, glasses so unfogged and unafraid it hurts a little to open wider
for pieces of the body to choose themselves
They have always known
wrinkled, unrelated palms
cherried thumbs (not their own) sandpapering the same space they both call home
Our dangling limbs touching each other
(clap clap clap)
so more people can touch
There is a plant named bougainvillea.
I am naming my daughter
the daughter we are all growing during this time—
because she will stretch “taking nothing for granted” into a new vine we call Now
we call Monday afternoons at the office, we call nights sipping wine with strangers, nothing will taste bitter again
Bougainvillea will thirst to say thank you, anytime, anywhere, with anyone
Bougainvillea will feed on firsts, a feast of anything, anyplace, any moment, anybody
Because we have forgotten how starved we have been.
How a quarter of an inch of butter
did not mean a thing.
A paper movie ticket.
Scissors through hair.
Sleeping next to someone.
Sharing the same spoon.
Holding my grandmother has been a decade of drought and all the water is yelling at me “Do it now! Do it now.”
We are in battle. This
battle. To prove that Bougainvillea is a climbing plant
even when the dictionary says its flowers are “insignificant” and cannot move.
To prove that we are not machines
addicted to repetition addicted to repetition addicted to repetition
Our papery green thumbs were once
born as thin sheets of metal, once
gloved and greedy, masked and eyeless,
Our thumbs were shields
and be touched
and be kissed
and be breathed into
We have forgotten that a fly can still find its fire
even in capture and we are that fly.
Bougainvillea, you are blind now,
but I promise
you will photograph this world
in its most naked state of being:
black and white
no one is there
click, snap, flutter, flare
you will name a plastic grocery bag dancing in air alone on the street
as its own word. This.