Us and The Captain


There are places on which man should not tread
made clear by the warning shots that ring in my ears
(but there is no stopping us now)
They sit monstrous and still
stretch as high and wide as the Andes
I strain to see the Indian runners of its Inca Trail
can understand why the angels want their homes here

Even now, we are those who prefer to read the paper
In heaven itself a large crowd turns
individual pages of the Sports section
We have forgotten the Wright brothers
Tinkering and Teetering and only then Flight
It’s like making love with rubber gloves
and a stopwatch

As far as my eyes can stretch
I can’t find any man’s resemblance to Genghis Kahn
The gods must think to themselves
as their tea cups rattle against their glass tables
and drapes dance with the accompanying wind
You have to hand it to them
They don’t lack in courage.



I’m the only one on the beach
the first in the ocean, cold as a baptism
as with many things, I travel beyond my means
find myself in the deep end

It’s calm where I tread
the waves are only ideas here that haven’t yet started to take shape
from this vantage point I can see
even once they materialize into grand formations, in the end

they still only displace a few small stones.
There’s a rustling from the palm trees
each of them vying for a better view
it seems they have each witnessed this scenario before

perhaps the only storyline they’ve seen
to have a beginning and an end
I make attempts to return to solid ground
but the Ocean likes me more than that

it doesn’t help that I can’t breathe
because of the panic that sets in
I’ve never hyperventilated before
and know that now is not a good time to start

My arms are all of a sudden weak
the water all of a sudden warm
I never really learned the crawl stroke as a kid
I feel blessed
because this is my only regret.



The captain stands in uniform
(and we don’t talk much)
we know our roles by now
to keep our eyes down or distracted
we are all seaworthy, too tired to mutiny
there are no gentlemen on the A train

ever since we all jumped ship in the morning
we’ve been treading water all day long
being blown this way and that by the tide
breathing in the air of our blessings, holding them in
until we have no choice but to implode.

We never learn our lesson and think we’re smarter than that
then to give up our seat, our only success of the day
Preachers preach the gospel
but nobody listens to Jesus
between the hours of five and seven

Now if the preachers served drinks instead of God
They would call each of us by name.
I have dreams of striking it rich
of sharing my treasure with you
walking down the aisle, handing out hundred dollar bills

But your eyes are either down (or distracted)
you think my gift could not possibly be just that
you’ve lived in this city too long
there must be a long string attached somewhere
and so you put each hand in either pocket

leaving us both wanting.
Tomorrow morning I will stand between you
shoulder to shoulder, us and the captain
all of us poor
moving downstream.



Every three days in Katmandu the lights go out
fire replaces electricity
around which kindred spirits gather round

It happened here, in New York City
where it’s the opposite of heaven
you can never see the sky

Once we could, we were all right
nine months from this day
we’ll name each of them Love

in the face of danger
confirmation that our prescription
of stoops and warm beer

This time nobody went in
until they saw stars.



I prefer this public library
to any other place
sharing the silence

with those that have left
a little of themselves behind
(some of them entire shelves)

everybody stays a stranger
nobody allowed to talk
while I catch my breath from Burroughs

plain faces seek quietly
a more pleasant description
of this here life



You asked me if I wanted a lift
across 10th Street
as I had been walking
for most of my life

I agreed
to be fair, I warned you
I wouldn’t wish my weight
on anybody

particularly two men I didn’t know
But we’re professionals,
you both said
and wore orange vests to prove it.

So I folded my arms over my chest
leaned back and, for the first time that day,
saw sky
You did exactly as you’d promised

carried me
like a stiff
landing me gently on the other side
of human kindness

We talked about it for a moment
my sweat on your hands
what it took to let go
for you, to hold on

Then you were off
there was a banker now
his belly facing the street
flying like superman.