I live near Boston and teach philosophy at Boston University. Besides academic pieces, I write fiction when I’m up to it and poems when I can’t help it. I use a fountain pen—my link to tradition—and write to music. I’ve published essays, stories, and poems in a wide variety of journals. My most recent book is Heiberg’s Twitch.
slugs it out with i-beams, jersey barriers; is raucous, full of heart;
draws up to her full supercumulus height, scrutinizes you indifferently,
then spits like a beer-relishing riveter. Inside their coats and shoes
naked commuters daven, furtively looking only inward, faces arrayed
like melons at the grocery, hands and navels identically unique,
their assorted soundtracks trembling through earbuds—
Mahler and Metallica, Marley and Milhaud, Eminem,
Moussourgsky, Martinu and Motown—music meticulously wrought,
passionate prayers composed to seep up rusty brick walls,
ooze along formed concrete, around windows double-glazed against
unprayerful noise; spurts with energy congealed to money,
ambition thick as failure, empty, full; bawls its elephantine
fugue where every voice and modulation is plausible; is lava flowing
chunky with presents you can picture and every gift you can’t;
is thunderous diapason of diapasons, blizzard of blizzards;
is infinite catalogue of catalogues, and thing of things.
Samarkand and Machu Pichu, Nineveh and Troy, Sodom and
Detroit, all great cities have their age of gold and glory,
are eternally transient, evanescent as old reveries,
durable as granite and flimsy as reticulated webs.
God levels his great eye on cities to punish or exalt, to
ruin them as emblems, aims His huge finger at them as to say
This is what I charge you to build, I want walls, libraries, bodegas,
ghettos, schoolyards, hot-dog stands, electric grids, trash trucks,
sewers, playgrounds; I want bullies and brokers, matrons and
call girls, lawyers and legal heirs. Go on, add, subtract, multiply, make a
city of yourselves spread out like the theory of bodies, like My
immense Leviathan, make a Behemoth of patiently accreted cells,
just as I made you; let it drift through time and space, through
dreams and history; make yourselves a mega-homunculus animated
by greed and holiness, and I shall make it mortal, just like you.
Solitary and cut off from
with nothing but a private drum
to beat beneath constellations
silent as fringed rocks smacked by waves,
he sits marooned like a mourner
in a churchyard choked with graves
though life teems on every corner.
In the bleak hour before dawn,
with morning coffee, through the day,
in his bed, everywhere alone,
on the sidewalk, down the subway—
your desert islands aren’t so rare
as maps insist; they’re everywhere.
“The City” first appeared in The Café Review.
©2016 Robert Wexelblatt
©2016 Robert Wexelblatt
Editor's Note: If this poem(s) moves you please consider writing to the author (email address above) to tell him or her. You might say what it is about the poem that moves you. Writing to the author is the beginning of community at Verse Virtual. It is very important. -FF