First Day of Spring, 2020

Adelaide Crapsey was born in Brooklyn, lived in Rochester. Her father was a heretic. One night, from her sickroom on the shore of Saranac Lake in Vermont, she saw the moon rise over the crashing bulk of Niagara. Adelaide’s brain was lined with tuberculosis. 

Now we’re near Niagara. 7-11 workers got on in Buffalo. They came from a party. Bubble gum, plastic bags and cans of Rockstar; talking like handguns. They cough.

10:45; two hours ago. In Dan’s orange car, going to Louise M. Slaughter Station. I send a voice mail about an antibody blood test to an immunologist at Mount Hope. Rub the knuckles of my right hand against my suitcase. My hot red left eye. Sneeze one, sneeze two.

“Why do you even brush Olive?”

“Because she likes it. Thought my allergy was gone. In Singapore I had a three-legged cat, never sneezed at all.”

We hadn’t seen each other for decades, but our goodbye is simple, like OK-gotta-go-to-work-see-you-later. 

I blow my nose in the parking lot.

The waiting room is tense. Fluorescent spotlights. If I sneeze, what will they do?

The ticking stops, the announcement’s made and the punk with handcuffs piercing his nose limps to the escalator.  I hurry. The Amish brother and sister stride away too. The student adjusts her backpack while walking and FaceTiming a shirtless boy on a bed.

Adelaide and her father once went on a walking tour of Wales. (links to Camino Real slideshows and Clementi bucket lists). She worked as a lecturer (link to talks at MIT, Paris and Detroit). In Rome, Adelaide met a man "who reminded her of her reason for living" (links to Houston, Hokkaido, Singapore and Natchez).

Before Rochester, I’d been in Manhattan. The bus between the two had no heater. Dropped off  at a place with old pizzas under a heat  lamp. The rain was almost snow. It was dark. A farmer bought gas. The dining area TV repeated Spectrum news: pepper spray at a Cayuga Nation riot, high school girls basketball, something something city council and a weather report. A commercial for a liquor store selling wines with screw tops. Cold fingers, oily formica, and the mutating white noise of the new normal.

Rochester’s poetry. The Flower City. The High Falls, the Can of Worms, the Car Full of Sues. A herd of deer in the Kodak plant, the rice field where Xerox was. Margaret Explosion. LES Super 8 films at VSW. Absolute grayness and lilacs. The Little Theatre and laser people living in the tree by the tracks.

Cleveland, and more Amish get on. Hats, beards and sombre bonnets. Black, solid suits and aprons. The cadence of quiet, no-nonsense High German, somehow harmonic with the steel rhythm of the train. Wikipedia glows on my phone: a cool white rectangle with text: 

Cinquain is widely taught in elementary schools and has been featured in, and popularized by, children's media resources, including Junie B. Jones and PBS Kids. This form is also embraced by young adults and older poets for its expressive simplicity. 

‘Children’s media’ triggers Bubiko Foodtour. Am I an older poet? Also triggered: my abandoned book of sky sentences. (The sky is a gypsy restoring a house. The sky will be over after the soaps. The sky?)

Adelelaide lived elegantly, in Autumn and Winter. Alone.

Perhaps I should write a Scientific Memory Poem about the Diamond Princess, quarantined near Yokohama’s Chinatown. Yokohama, Yokohama, Yokohama. Years ago: documentation stopped while the virgin blaring of fire alarms amplified themselves in an unfinished concrete stairwell as a stained glass Jackson Pollock was hoisted up one hundred and twenty-eight stories, by yellow helmets and canvas thick as a phone book. Phone book. Phone book. Phone. Book. Phone.

Manhattan. There were inflatable dolls. Bridges and subways; pestilence. Edgar Allen Poe in Times Square. Cowboys. Central Park. The museum with butterflies, dinosaur skeletons and the dome where metal brains and celestial bodies daily make spidersilk eggs and arcs. 

Elyria, Ohio is a pause and a sleepy question.

Adelaide Crapsey, watching the moon.

The conductor disturbs me nicely.

The steps, the darkness of 5AM. 


Transported on a night in March


Below us 

Carving, curving, waiting 

Connecting what can be connected



Photos and videos of Rochester and NYC can be found here.

1 thought on “First Day of Spring, 2020”

  1. Pingback: Rochester, New York (early 2020) - blacksteps

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