Going outside during a pandemic resembles running an obstacle course, especially in a city as densely populated as New York. The obstacles are maskless people and the poisonous invisible monsters they spew everywhere. I walk cautiously, crossing into the street to avoid the ignorant fools who haven’t covered their mouths and noses. I’m always on the lookout for these moral scofflaws, so full of anxiety and in such a rush to get back to the safety of my apartment, that it’s impossible for me to enjoy the beautiful trees and plantings, the exquisite and diverse architecture, the glorious sun on the days it is out. Most frustrating of all is to be so distracted by my fear that I do not hear the singing of the many birds that make Manhattan their home. Living in the middle of Manhattan, I miss Manhattan mornings. I’m sure others feel this sense of dislocation within their locations.
A few years back, I wrote a series of poems dominated by the use of kennings, which are compound expressions with metaphorical meaning that characterize medieval Icelandic poetry; for example, “battle-sweat” for blood or “breaker of trees” for wind. My intent was for my modern kennings to dislocate the readers from the poem to make them think about the narrative and scene through a new verbal lens. Here is the one I wrote about a morning walk along the streets of the Upper East Side that appeared in BigCityLit.
Light-and-life-giver splashes the earth-turn,
dries the flashy rain-holders in towering flight above
gusts of fish-home air-shakes swaying to iamb trees,
the here-to-there of singing wings, the baked and baking
mud and stone of schist island, churned-down yellows,
blues and whites still flowering or fluttering in petals
on mistless cattle-graze by the trochees of bowers and gutters,
and there we in-and-out the lungs for no other why-it-is
than to feel the yearning flow of here-and-now.
Published in BigCityLit Fall 2019