Alexander Long

ON AWE

Early November, 2008, I’m running along the Hudson, one of those grey mellow mornings just after Daylight Savings Time when even the sun seems unsure how to begin again, and so the gulls and the geese seem unsure of home. Only the Hudson appears to have it all figured out, holding in as much as it may, throwing back all it can, holding the snoozing gulls and geese until a man rises from his bench and bags and throws his bottles at the birds. Anger follows no calendar, no cycle, no course, and, like grief, is its own end. With each bottle he calls out a name: Susan, Anna, Kathleen, Marie…the bottles shattering the gulls and the geese into the foreground of this grey morning, the Financial District occupying the background, the romance of its skyscrapers growing dimmer and dimmer. I stop, watch, catch my breath, watch this man lost in a habit all his own waltz proudly back to his bench and bags. I pass him, and he raises a bottle, shouts, “Don’t forget to vote, Bitch!...For me!” I start to run, then stop again. A gull sits on the wrought iron rail and stares my way. Neither of us, in this moment, will scare, for I approach it, and it stays long enough for me to catch the meaning of its stare: hunger, purity. Caught there, I stare back until it looks away, but does not fly. It stands on its one leg, glaring east toward a sun that cannot shine. Not here.

 

 

 

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Alexander Long´s books include Vigil (New Issues Poetry & Prose, 2006) and Light Here, Light There (C & R Press, 2009). A chapbook, Still Life, was selected by Terrance Hayes as winner of the 2010 Center for Book Arts Chapbook Competition. A third collection, also titled Still Life, has been selected by Aliki Barnstone as the 2011 winner of the White Pine Press Poetry Prize, and will be published in fall 2011. With Christopher Buckley, Long is co-editor of A Condition of the Spirit: the Life and Work of Larry Levis (Eastern Washington UP, 2004). His work has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes seven times and has appeared or is forthcoming in AGNI, The American Poetry Review, Pleiades, and The Southern Review, among others. An assistant professor of English at John Jay College, CUNY, Long is currently at work on a biography of Larry Levis. 

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