January 1, 2009KR BlogUncategorized

The hermit, to the messenger who has arrived at his cave, asks, How fares the human race? Do new roofs rise in old cities? Whose empire is it now sways the world?


Because the year is over, because it will go down to 10 degrees in Providence today, and the sun’s shining “as if it doesn’t mean it,” and I want to (and kind of agreed to) say something–

Here is a token–

It consists of the last four lines of a poem, but also a spot for you to stand alone on the end of Pier 4 in Charlestown, Massachusetts, with the navy yard behind you and a bleak Boston Harbor before you.

We can take turns standing in the spot–because you have to be alone on the pier, to listen to the water. The surf isn’t exactly crashing there–more half-heartedly lapping against wood, which is better, which is the spoon at the heart, not the knife.

When you read the lines, typed on white paper, laminated, and tied with wire to the railing, maybe you will get something of what I got the winter of 1999, when I would walk out to the end just to read them.

Public poetry isn’t for me, really–subway poems or bar slams–but only-person-on-the-cold-pier poetry–that is something else. And maybe you like exquisite aches, goodbyes, cityscapes. With these lines, and a view of Boston, you can maybe feel more alone, and less alone, than you have ever been. You can maybe forget the dailiness of newspapers in blue plastic bags. When I stood out there and read those lines the world was a meditation–

I don’t know who typed them up or tied the wire or chose the spot where the pier juts out most into the water. I’m not sure it was Pier 4. It could have been Pier 7, or 8. Or where that piece of paper went, or when the lines disappeared.

Break, break, break
at the foot of thy crags, O Sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
will never come back to me. (Tennyson)

When I meet someone who seems to also have a portable cave or monastery, an inner pier, what I always forget to ask, or else never bring up, even if they lived in the Boston area themselves circa 1999, is: was it you.