From marble and granite to steel and glass,
we were discussing Rhina Espaillat’s On the Avenue in class,
was it 1950s or 1980s NYC and were the fifties
the city’s halcyon days or is it now, the 2020s,
the boroughs teeming with immigrants
from the round earth’s imagined corners,
Hasidim and Muslim, Haitian and Russian, as we
Italians and Irish in an earlier era were. Everything will
be ok or not, the recombinations which make
prediction and intuition fortunately hopeless
and each individual an experiment gone well or wrong.
On the avenue God speaks by spewing
toy and clothing stores, breakdancers and ice skaters,
the Brooklyn Navy Yard seen from the Brooklyn Bridge,
the skyline admired when my car broke down on the Triborough Bridge.
The numbers of us overwhelm, there exist powers
overwhelming for the human body and mind.
I don’t mind but I can’t make sense of it.
Gandhi said What you do may not seem important
but it is very important that you do it. By that what is meant?
Linda said Why does God always have to be a man?
I said He could be a She but she’s probably really
a Tyrannosaurus rex. I like to be in America!
—Espaillat, Rhina, “On the Avenue”, Playing at Stillness, Truman State University Press, 2005.
—Donne, John, “At the round earth’s imagined corners”.