Nathan Horowitz

Boston to Vienna

(April 3, 2006)

I went to sleep last night at nine,
woke up just now at three with a gasp.

The distance between the jungle and Boston is so huge,
but I crossed it in a single breath.

I lay in bed, not moving. In my dream, I was near the river.
Someone had been trying to kill someone else with witchcraft.

This led me to think about my cousin in Durham, North Carolina,
who's so sick with cancer,

and then about my grandmother in Hamden, Connecticut,
who's so old and frail.

Yesterday, a sunny spring Sunday,
I was parked in the north parking lot of the University of Massachusetts - Boston.

Gusts of wind off the harbor were hitting the car.
I was talking with my grandmother on my cell phone about leaving for Vienna.

She reiterated for the umpteenth time,
"I just want you to be happy."

On the drive home, I started crying behind my sunglasses
when someone sang on the radio, "I know I'm going away."

''m in Boston, moving to Vienna in two months.
I also never really left the jungle, the shamans, their sorcery and their politics.

I live in several places at once,
sometimes at peace, sometimes in pieces.

My path has led through three continents and a number of different languages.
But as Chomsky says, there is only one language.

I hope to learn to speak it before I become language,
disappearing into my e-mails as Borges disappeared into his short stories.

For now I'll just sit here in the corner of the study scribbling
something like poetry, only more crude,

while in another room of the universe
my grandmother prays for me over her sabbath candles.

Come cry on my shoulder if you're in the mood to.
You know we're all going away.

This poem contains one blue Skylark, two tiger cats,
the clicking tock on the wall,

Ka sleeping in the bedroom,
me sitting here in the study at 3:20 a.m. with my notebook on my knees...

This poem contains memories,
boiled down, resinous.

In Vienna we'll live near the Volksoper, and the WUK,
an anarcho-socialist arts complex

where my butoh dance group used to work up a sweat
transforming ourselves into nobles and hobgoblins.

But now I'm closer to the African American street people couple
I met in Roxbury two weeks ago.

I'm wondering about the white crud under their friendly eyes—
didn't they wash their faces in the morning?

One day I gave them ten dollars,
and the next week I happened to be back in the same place,

waiting for a gallery to open,
and they were there too,

and I asked them if I could sit down
on their cracked plastic milk crate

and they said "Sure," and I did,
and I listened to them and their friends

for about ten minutes before
my ears attuned to their way of speaking

and then I was telling them about going to Vienna,
and how the Austrians love ski jumping.

And as I was explaining opera to Clarence
Betty said,"What are you two talking about over there?"

And Clarence said, "Opera. You're not interested in it."
But Betty said,

"That's what you don't know about me. I like opera.
I just don't have no money to go see it."

The subtext of their presence there on the sidewalk that day
seemed to be that they were trying to

smuggle some crack to a prisoner who was part of a work crew
cleaning up a vacant lot nearby.

And I said, “How do people smuggle drugs into prisons?”
And Clarence said, “O you can put it in your nose, in your ear, in your ass.

"You can even swallow it and shit it out later,
light it up in the cell!"

I want to swallow some things while I'm here in Boston,
and smuggle them with me on the plane to Vienna, including:

Hip Hop music, the Master's degree I'm about to earn,
the sunlight on Boston Harbor, the political struggle against Bush,

the St. Patrick's Day parade,
which I avoided but don't want to forget,

and the Irish pub on the corner where I feel uncomfortable
because the people look like me ten or fifteen years ago.

It's disgusting to say this, but the metaphor is apt: you swallow experiences,
and later you shit them out as memories and light them up in your cell.

Space and time are so huge,
but you traverse them in the span of a single breath,

alone, smoking memory
like crack.

The breath is part of the path.
Ahhhhhhhhhhh, the path.

The path is logical, it's pathological, it's a logistical old
path between there and here,

it's a well-trod trail for tiger cat or giant snail,
and I never left it, and now it's taking me away.

Yesterday, when I got home from the university
and the sky was still light,

and I was restless and pacing around the living room
because I knew I was going away,

I called my mom and took the cell phone
out to Puddingstone Park on the hill above the Stop and Shop supermarket,

and I felt like I was getting high on the earth,
and I looked at the intelligent sunset that was looking back at me,

and I looked at the geometrical crystals of the Boston skyline gleaming,
cold, yellow-silver, snuggling back against the slate-blue sky,

and I looked at the nice row houses with individuals and families in them
and I felt the grass compressed under my shoes.

I didn't see it
but the path curled up like a snake behind me.

And I said to my mom, "I'm going to smoke a Cuban cigar
that Mike Milne gave me last time I was in town,"

and my mom said, "You ought to leave it in your pocket,"
and I said, "But it's a Cuban cigar,"

and she said, "But it's still carcinogenic,"
and I said, "But mouth cancers caused by Cuban cigars are so much

richer and more full of flavor than those caused by
ordinary cigars."

And I listened to my mom's nice warm voice tell me about
her editing job and how she can walk on her new knee pretty well now,

and Sam Walker's new book on baseball,
and Ted Chamberlain's new book on horses,

and Janie might come to Maine in the summer,
and Saramanda got married

two months before the wedding was planned,
she and he and the best man and the best woman

just went down to some justice of the peace and did it,
but they'll have another wedding in May anyway,

and my cousin Mimi sounded pretty bad on the phone last week,
she uses a walker to get around now.

I should call her,
she'd like it,

talk to her across a great distance,
one breath at a time,

and you try to breathe slowly and deeply
when you know you're going away.

Nathaniel Dowd Horowitz, M.A.
Pyrkergasse 30-32/1/21
A 1190 Wien
(+43) 680 211 2178


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