New York Light

a poem by William Doreski

Retiring into a corner
braced by photos on the walls
and warmed by a propane heater
has rendered me fungal and shy.
Dawn hardly arrives. Colors
too discreet to describe hover
between earth and sky. Clipped
pine silhouettes lack dimension
but cling to peripheral vision
with a sticky violet glaze.

My friend has sent another
photo to pin to the wall, depicting
a brick Manhattan block only
three windows wide but maybe
a hundred feet deep, crowned
with a large ornate cornice.
This structure folds the low
afternoon light around it
like a stole. I want to live
on the top floor where heavy drapes
smother the traffic noise below.

I want to be New York aggressive
and prowl the streets with a sneer,
eating street-vendor hot dogs
and lazing around in coffee shops
savoring the grit of tabloids.
But I’ve retired, retired
from the unreal of being human.
I’ve withdrawn into withdrawal,
allowing the bills to pile up
in a muddle of whispered threats.

The dawn remains tentative
in pearly wisps and tatters.
Chickadees clump at the feeders
and deer pause at the forest-line.
Much later the day will toughen
and cast honest muscular shadows.
But ruffled and smoothed by the pines,
the autumn afternoon won’t match
the harsh delineation
frozen in this photograph.

The street deepens in early dusk.
The pizza shop windows scorch
the chilling air with neon.
New York light illuminates
only the upper floors, but there
in a moment of self-regard
I could paint myself with colors
so strict that even after dark
I could still distinguish myself
from the gray space I’d inhabit.

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