(“Therapy,” gay bar, NYC, January 2020)


Auden, you would have understood

the bright array of colored lights,

the drinks set just so on the bar, and men

side by side engaged in close conversations

or other men sitting by themselves,

perusing the semi-darkness

seekers of a body, a body

to shelter with at morning;

though for you I knew

there was less festivity,

laughter, ease

of an open community.

Would you feel the moment’s irony?

The sad gathering of fear, the unease of authoritarianism

the world gone perversely toward hatred, a disregard for suffering,

a carelessness toward truth. Menace has returned, Auden,

outside this bar, the City towers glow, high-rise silhouettes, brilliant as crystalline gems

and ornamental circuitries, reminding me of Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s old movie, that epitome of

futuristic dystopia, a foreseeing

of economic repression—a film I once found laughable, its melodramatic symbolism—

its hyper-Expressionistic design. But time is unkind to those of us now grown old,

who’ve passed our shelf-lives, outlived friends, and seen the harsh ascent of change,

Lang’s flickering frames in color-painted celluloid precede 20th century terrors,

genocide, atrocity, technology,

the mechanization of the human, the outsourcing

of minds.

Auden, these lights tonight

distant, more points of vast alienation,

far-off signals, warnings from the dispossessed

codes sent of absence.

For every bright window, a cardboard box, a heap of clothes, excrement

and plastic bags—

optionless borders

or steel cages,

and so much more

I must ignore.

And in this tapered cocktail,

its radiance a kind of jarring elegance

a forfeiture

a way

of freely forgetting.