Breaking Through In Brooklyn (Short Lines)

The Brooklyn Bridge stands strident,
illuminated downriver,
cast in five thousand littered lights
which dance and flicker
as it meets Monolithic Manhattan
mounted, and all it means.
Fractured, faded sunlight
forcing itself between the cities seams.
The Empire State is shifting
in shades at the end of the day
just as I’d become accustomed
to its settled state of grey.
I’d crept up it by floors
in a crowded elevator the day before,
and now its size creeps up on me
as I watch it from a facing shore.

I realise then how small I am
in comparison, how small I’ll always be,
but then I realise that regardless of size
I’m right where I need to be.
A pinprick in welcoming Williamsburg,
a ghost just passing through,
re-visiting places I’ve already been
just to make them feel brand new.
The sand settled in the sole of my shoe
feels like a firm filament reminder
that I’ve travelled this far
somehow, and can still go further.
I barely made it to America,
but now I’m making it with ease;
making waves, from Georgia to DC
to a rented flat in Queens.

Because I’m no longer anchored
anymore, here I’m untethered,
sailing along freely in the stormiest
of weathers,
(but not weathered)
Buoyant beside the boats on the river,
which are casting choruses
out over the bay, barely reaching
the nearby Brooklyn beaches.
I can’t hear them anyway,
seated there huddled under headphones,
as the breeze over the water kicks
my hanging hair up into horns,
further stirring the goosebumps
on my arms as another song starts,
as the moment becomes monumental
just past the promenades.

All of life, right there, as the waves
lap against the bridge supports,
as the evening planes fly overhead
from JFK or LaGuardia airports.
Thick threads, traced amongst the clouds
and stitched into the sky –
white lines amongst crescendos
of crimson colours above where I lie,
where the breath catches in my throat
like choked words unspoken
as my eyes close and splinter
the sinking skyline, leaving it broken.
These lights, this place, my pale hand
clutching at a gravel iPhone,
everything so much bigger than myself
five thousand miles from home.

I’ve spent my whole life treading water
to the tune of another sad song,
wasting time on half-hearted rhymes
and still writing them wrong,
drifting from one disappointing port
to another, waiting for more –
always expecting something better
to appear on the next distant shore.
Waiting was as problematic as the patient
pulse of my wooden heart;
I should’ve been seeking it out myself
instead of dwindling at the start.
Flying to America was the surest way
to steady my shaking left hand
which is finally still as it strokes
a smooth straight line into Brooklyn sand.

The skyscrapers in the distance
grow closer as the record swells
and the river dwindles to a stream,
beaching boats atop the shells.
I could swim across it and mount
a pier on Manhattan’s east side,
or drift downtown past Battery Park
by following the tumultuous tide.
Either way, I don’t feel like a shipwreck
stranded on the sand anymore.
I’m pulling together my sodden mass
of bloated boards and broken bones,
patching my ripped sails and plucking
barnacles from my bloated skin
to cast off up from the port
where I’m perched and find a way to begin.

So I decide that I’ll keep on sailing
north next to these sandy shores,
until I find a comfortable coastline
that looks enough like home,
where my blistered feet can stand
firm there instead of sink;
it could be a continent away,
but it’s probably closer than I think.
It could have been Brooklyn, but
my visit here is shore leave, temporary
and I have somewhere else to be going
now I’m done being stationary.
So I leave the beach behind
but leave the sand in the soul of my shoe,
set forth again into the city,
soul searching after a breakthrough.

Electric currents course through my veins
like the rapid rivers currents,
sparking me back into life as I wander
awestruck through the boroughs,
along Brooklyn streets lined
with lively restaurants and brimming bars,
past cheap-imitation English pubs
and tattoo parlours underneath the stars.
Everywhere I look, it seems brighter,
sounds louder, looks better,
and I find that I’m no longer shivering
underneath my baggy sweater.
I see constellations coruscating
in the settled city stratospheres.
I hear the heavy hum of the universe
in my heartbeat as Bushwick nears.

Everything everywhere, everything alive
as I head back to my rented bed
to dream of fortunate futures,
New York a nestled noise inside my head.

Brooklyn, May 2016


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