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Lynda Hull

LYNDA HULL The Window Streak of world blurred charcoal & scarlet, the El slows, brakes near the platform, Little Chinatown, & there’s that window, peeling frame, screen split to rippling raingusts. A curtain breathes through busted glass, a glimpse of hallway enameled green, rows of numbered doors, nothing more, and then the train lurches forward sparkling its electric signature above slick, hissing rails. Soon, soon, I’ll stop there, the window’s pull irresistible as the force of a star collapsed to black gravity. I’ll step through the window, take up again the key for the one room to which I keep returning. Let me wait again there by the sill as I wait still. Here’s the steeple of the burnt church, beloved of vandals, the sooty block of old law tenements where chipped tubs rise porcelain on their feet in coldwater kitchens, unashamed, small gray animals, the startled array of insects we lived with. Where are you? In the hallways, bodies passing smell like bodies, unwashed, ginsoaked, dopesick, the musk & salt. Where are you? Hear with me the slant beat of that orthopedic shoe striking pavement a few stained facades away. With each echoing step, feel again the raw acceleration, hope, or is it fear looming, receding? Streaming hellmouths in the asphalt. If each of us contains, within, humankind’s totality, each possibility then I have been so fractured, so multiple & dazzling stepping toward myself through the room where the New Year’s dragon lies in its camphored sleep. In the days I lived here, a thousand rooms like it, making love was a way of saying yes, I am here, these are my borders, hold me down a little while. Make me real to myself. One more shining thing gone after in the night that disappeared with morning. No substance. But I’d like you to place your hands, cradling the neck’s swanny arch, stand here by the copper dormer window that’s like an endless gallery of such windows with fire escapes burdened by doves’ insatiable mourning. Then let it happen, the desire to be out in the world, more than in it, wholly of it, trammeled, broken to neoned figments. All it takes is a few adjustments— purple those lids, the lips as we did then, that old mirror clouded with vague continents. We’re ready to inhabit the sequined gowns, martini glasses pouring their potions over the street, the milky syringes & oh, those ravening embraces, the ravished streets & whispered intersections. Slick back the hair, and then the wig. I could never face anything without the wig. Transformed, the old vaudeville desire struts & kicks its satiny legs, the desire to be consumed by ruined marquees, these last drifting hotels, to be riven, served up singing, arched & prismed from a thousand damp boulevards. Those things which shine in the night, but what vertigo to surrender, falling through the elaborate winged buildings they only have in neighborhoods like this anymore, January’s bitten snow cold about the ankles. Let me move again, a wraith, past these windows – bridesmaids’ gowns the color of casket linings, flammable, green as gasoline poured from the can to flame the alley outside the Welfare’s fluorescent offices, police stations, the shabby public hospital’s endless waiting rooms. How exactly pinned-to-the-wall love was in that harsh economy, the world, the world, the world. What I remember is the astringent sting of air. Living on nothing but injections & vodka, a little sugar. The self, multiple, dazzling. What I remember are the coral husks of lobsters broken clean through restaurant windows, steaming. Through these windows tumble fragments, the stories, lavish vertical fountains of opera. Dressed as death’s-heads, crowds demonstrate against the new war with placards before the marble stairs. Like a wraith let me move among them, through the rooms of this building, home of my fondest nightmares, let me stay the hand twisting in rage, let me crush the white & violet petals of sleep, the black sticky heart of sleep over the delicate eyelids, over the bodies’ soft geographies, over the sorrow, the grandeur of columns & esplanades, the soot-shouldered graces outside the museum. Rude armfuls of orchids fill the florist’s windows, these lunar ones curved like music staffs above dissolving aspirins I might bring back to the room for you. Oh phantoms. Oh the many lives that have fountained through my own. Soon, soon, I shall stop upon that platform & you will meet me there, the world rosegray beyond the scalloped tops of buildings & we shall seek that thing which shines & doth so much torment us.

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