Poetry Daily: John Koethe, Crossing Seventh Avenue Below West Tenth

Today’s Poetry Daily selection is a prose-y, “I walk through New York City and ruminate” poem by John Koethe. A style (a genre?) I love, and that evokes Frank O’Hara (and James Schuyler, mentioned in the poem). Koethe’s folds out over greater length than O’Hara’s, but he still gets the light tone just right, that glancing touch of travelogue, reflection, and direct address that makes you feel you’re at his side.

Two wonderful bits, as a sample of the whole, itself well worth reading.

That’s the thing about time: it can take you anywhere,
And yet it takes you home. It leaves you the same person
In a different place, still always metaphysically alone,
But with friends that you can phone and tell your travels to.
I can’t tell you what it is, but I can feel it flow, and flow away,
Until a memory breaks its spell

I ought to decide where I’m going to eat tonight. In Hebdomeros,
Giorgio de Chirico’s novel in the form of an extended thought,
There’s a passage about “those men who eat alone in restaurants,”
Inhabiting “the infinite tenderness, the ineffable melancholy”
Of a moment “so gentle and so poignant that one doesn’t understand
Why all the personnel of the premises, the manager and cashier,
The furniture, the tablecloths, the wine jugs, down to the saltcellars
And the smallest objects don’t dissolve in an endless flood of tears.”
I think there’s so much freedom in that thought: you stroll out
Into the night as (!) into a wilderness of traffic lights and neon signs.
I love feeling lost in the Village: crossing Seventh Avenue
Below West Tenth I get confused, and I love feeling confused,

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