I wake up around five, dizzy from the jet lag, the ear plugs and the Newark shuttle.
There is a lawn mower behind my eyes,
so I turn on the TV and watch the Weather Channel
and a documentary about orphans.
Later I walk out of the hotel praying for coffee.
It's fun watching the buildings breathe,
the empty pawn shops,
the convenient stores bursting with bagels.
An old timer is walking his schnauzer whistling a song by The Yardbirds.
I buy Time Out and a postcard of Harlem
while I talk back at the homeless.
They sleep everywhere, their dreams covered by cardboard and Yankee caps.
I keep on walking as the city puts on its slippers,
yawning into mirrors, fighting dental floss and dog breath.
God, what a vibrant morning it is, so merciless and claustrophobic,
a whole city on caffeine and Quaaludes.
I want to memorize the rain clouds on Lexington,
I want to dive into the East side counting accents and fruitcakes.
But could I live in this place where pop corn is an art form?
No, there are too many pinstriped sewers,
too many ulcers hiding behind sweat shirts.
So I watch my back on the lemon subway
staring down terrorists with flashy cell phones.
Everyone, and I mean everyone, is carefully graded:
The Puerto Rican counting his painkillers.
the pregnant jogger in her dirty trainers,
the born-again Christians moving in for the kill.
They all pretend to be yogis,
their lethal chakras glowing in the dark.
"You can never be too careful on fragile platforms,"
a Chinese woman says and escapes to the Bronx
with a fistful of curlers.
At 10 AM I return to my hotel
browsing through the orange juice and two slices of bacon.
A family from Trieste is threatening each other
with selfies from Macy's.
The hotel carpet seems dead;
it's probably missing the cigarette butts
and Michael Jackson's moon boots from the eighties.
Thank God there's a fire exit in my room
and a mini-bar with icy peanuts.
Two lonely hangers are pining for silk bras
while Gideon's Bible is tugged away in the sink.
I'm in bed watching a game show with housewives winning Mazdas.
They cry happily into the camera,
mascara streaming down their cleavage until they faint.
Washington Square is a rumor
while I move through the five stages of jet lag.
I'm happy in my brownstone but New York is a pinball
with saxophones and scumbags,
cabbies and curve balls,
pushing me into oblivion with a gorgeous shrug.
Copyright Peter H. Fogtdal. The first version of this poem is from way back in July, 1981 where I was a college student and attended a workshop with Sam Shepard in Padua Hills outside Pomona. Then I rewrote it at another poetry workshop with Robert Creeley at Vermont Studio Center in 2001, and now I've rewritten it for a third time. I've never tried to have it published but would love to see it in a poetry magazine. Thanks for reading it, all!