On the last day with you, the light sweltered
As we sweat trails through East Village frenzy,
To end up in the garden at St. Luke’s.
I said I felt more resolved, your city
Less crucial. Underneath the ironweeds there,
A homeless man was leafing through a book
Of fairy tales. Three stiff suits loose in the wilds
Lunched near walkways. It wasn’t until
We’d seen an old husk of a woman, sprawled
On a bench, that you spoke. Like a sibyl
She sat, a fallen branch in her hands, thin
As a wand. She carefully worked poplar
Bark off in strips, sometimes using a screw,
So the limb was entirely the color
Of bone. At her feet a pile of tanned skin.
You asked what she was doing with them, you
Said they looked lovely (you actually used
The word lovely!) and though she shrugged, unsure
Of such free possibility, I knew
She was there in the shade to underscore
Silence, that uncomfortable, unstoked fire
With repositories of blue–stony-
Faced, as if to say There’s nothing unique
Here, I’m just giving voice and desire
To all that seems dead, with some certainty
Which was like a beginning to history.
Larry Bradley’s work has appeared in The New Republic, The New York Times, The Paris Review, Poetry, Southwest Review, and New England Review. He has twice been a finalist for the Walt Whitman Award, as well as a finalist for the Yale Series of Younger Poets and The National Poetry Series.