The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2014

All Issues
JUL-AUG 2014 Issue


At Sunrise


Instead of meditating, I mop
the floors and hallways. 
To prevent downloading free
music, Dutch cable companies
obtain a court order to block
access to the pirate bay.
In fancy gyms across the city,
people steal from each other,
yuppie-on-yuppie crime
while musicians and night
workers seek the quiet dim
of dark apartments. At sunset,
I switch on the parking lights
and run upstairs to pee,
hoping the police won’t
notice. Then I circle around
block after block, finally
finding a tiny spot between
B & C, in front of the yuppie
building with a doorman,
a doorman's sole purpose,
so they say, to provide security.










Luke split his lip today
and had to get six stitches
The court has all but ruled out
a split primary. We're lucky
we're here together for
however long we have.
Victory sends the sold-out
crowd of more than 6,700
fans to their feet.  At the very
top of their game, there has to
be something spiritual
about our existence, the way
we’re so carefully designed
but we can't fathom. Hoping
to win a long-futile battle
against falling prices,
all our speculation adds up
to these religions. So here
we are falling down, then
getting up again, running
down the block and losing
every single person ever
nearby and in our arms.








I Was Walking Down


I was walking down 4th street
and across Houston when
I thought, Why are we here?
Wallace Stevens found inspiration
on his daily walk, but we walk
differently in high heels.
A woman is crazy in love
with a sedate purple dress
with black velvet flower appliqués
and the crazy weather continues.
In Europe people are freezing
to death and yesterday it snowed
in Libya. Still a prolonged
intellectual tussle over the climate.
In 2005 the global ringtone
market reached its height
and Crazy Frog is still worth $2.2
billion dollars.  We get close,
fall in love and then bye-bye. 
The winner gets a crushed fedora.








We Americans  


The American captain in "Benito
Cereno," is optimistic and his point
of view promotes self interest. 
On the evil bible website there's
all the justification anyone needs
for murder and mayhem. Our education
system can be a powerful mechanism
for the reproduction of privilege.
Trying to keep my view positive—
While red squirrels tunnel through
the snow with ease, I stumble
through the subway tunnels
with a terrible cough and difficulty
breathing. To teach yoga is
to transmit energy. But American
literature?  Even if the body
is listless, sitting at a desk,
there's always some energy coiling
inside and a transmission line
capable of transferring enough qi
for hundreds of thousands of cells. 








In a Fractional Way


My father was a man
who loved me as long as
I did what he wanted.
Democrats in New York State
out number Republicans
two to one, yet Republicans
hold a narrow majority
in the State Senate. Wearing
a hooded sweatshirt,
sunglasses and holding
a bag of candy, Trayvon
Martin was fatally shot
in Florida on February 28th. 
A pair of eerily lifelike
oil pumps on an empty lot
at 8th Avenue and 46th.
Just want to be quiet now.
An ambitious project
anyhow to save every
book and every memory.
Crowds line up—some
in the rain—to get an iPad.
Standing here with my camera
and my pad of paper.
Be simple. Be a witness.








A Blind Spot


is simply an obscuration
of the visual field.  I try
to memorize the potholes
in the dark as I bike over
to Trader Joes in the rain. 
Two lines snake up and down
the aisles from the door
to the checkout.  I shop
in line, moving from one
aisle to the next, picking
groceries off the shelves.
In front of me, a blind
woman maybe late thirties
with a big sandy seeing
eye dog.  She's holding
the leash with one hand
and her other hand is on
the shoulder of a very old
woman, maybe eighty,
stooped over and pushing
a stroller with two babies,
maybe eight-month old
twins. Touch, patience
and sheer determination
and we follow the neon
lights back out into the rain. 








White Blossoms


A motor-cycle idles
at the light, a tattooed
man adjusts his backpack
and my new friend
Leon and I walk
to the park as I roll
my bike along beside us.
We eat lunch, lettuce,
tomatoes on wheat bread
with tahini.  Then
Leon tells me that
he has thyroid cancer
and won't take any AMA
medicine. He should
have been dead by now,
but with intense yoga
for twelve years,
he’s still here. We part
on 7th Street under
a flowering pear
tree and then we each
wander on home
in our own directions.
When the tulips are
finally ready to flower
underground tubers
will send up a second leaf. 










Left my yoga mat some
where, maybe in the nail
shop or in the park, left
my water bottle and bracelet
at the yoga studio, my
debit card in the atm machine.
At least I didn't leave
my favorite scarf anywhere
this week. Woke up from
a brief nap, a little teary,
about something someone
said to me.  You’re too thin
skinned that's why you're
so negative. One of my
admirers. The skin of a
fresh pea is translucent
and slightly tough, a more
delicate version of the
covering on a fava bean.
Inside its skin are two
pieces that fall apart when
the skin is removed. At
the nail shop on First Ave
the young Chinese woman
marvels at the skin on the
my legs.  How many years? 
Sixty-three? Oh my, they
look twenty-three.  When
my finger knocks one gauge
off kilter, a tiny motor whirrs
and just like that the device
snaps back into position.





Barbara Henning

Barbara Henning has several published novels and books of poetry, recently Digigram (United Artists 2020); forthcoming is Prompt Book: Experiments for Writing Poetry and Fiction (Spuyten Duyvil).


The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2014

All Issues