At Bickfords

by Gerald Stern

You should understand that
I use my body now for everything
whereas formerly I kept it away
from the higher regions.
My clothes are in a stack over against
the orange pine cupboard
and my hair is lying in little piles
on the kitchen floor.
I am finally ready for the happiness
I spent my youth arguing and
fighting against.
Twenty years ago – walking on Broadway –
I crashed into Shaddai and his eagles.
My great specialty was darkness then
and radiant sexual energy.
Now when light drips on me
I walk around without tears.
– Before long I am going to live
again on four dollars a day
in the little blocks between 96th and 116th.
I am going to follow the thin line of obedience
between George’s Restaurant and Salter’s Books.
There is just so much feeling
left in me for my old ghost
and I will spend it all in one last outburst of charity.
I will give him money; I will listen to his poems;
I will pity his marriage.
– After that I will drift off again into Bickford’s
and spend my life in the
cracked cups and the corn muffins.
I will lose half my hatred
at the round tables
and let any beliefs that want to overtake me.
On lucky afternoons the sun
will break through the thick glass
and rest like a hand on my forehead.
I will sit and read in my chair;
I will wave from my window.