Brooklyn and Two Poems

The correspondence I have presented thus far is one-sided because my letters to her, to which she refers, were sent to her parents’ house in Old Mission during her annual summer visit there and before she moved to Brooklyn.  I have no doubt she kept them, but they remain hidden.  Among Carol’s strengths, an orderly filing system of her papers was not one of them

This post begins with a brief letter for which I do not have an envelope. It is clearly from September, 1981 as she has started taking classes at New York University.  In it she describes an early semester encounter with a professor from whom I had taken a graduate course some fifteen years earlier. 

She provides  her new Brooklyn phone numbers as well as the best time to call.  No doubt these times correspond not only to her own schedule but also to when her house-mate would not be home. .As she states in the first sentence, circumstances  obliged us to carry on our relationship through “pen-palism.”

I  wrote my dissertation at NYU on Edward Taylor, a seventeenth century New England poet and minister.  I guess she was checking up on me now that she was also attending that university.



Well, it looks like pen-palism is the going thing here despite all my protests.

Harrier is just who you said & more.  He wouldn’t let me in to the first class because I wasn’t “approved.” (By whom?)  I had the feeling he would like us all to be ordained as emissaries of the Great English Author gods before daring to tread on his carpet.

I wanted to give you my phone #: 212/624-1693.  Tues. & Wed. eve’s are good times to find me here.

And who is Edward Taylor?


The date on the envelope of the following poem is unclear except for the year of 1981, so I received it that fall. In the poem she seems to be both celebrating, and struggling with, the implications of our developing relationship.


I wrote many things & tossed them before I knew I had to write it in poetry.

w/a world of difference
and a world of similarities–
it couldn’t be any different
if I tried to put it in novel form–
instead of poetry.
Where it’s going
I don’t know–
a difficult beginning
(I sensed you waiting)
just a middle
w/little to offer
but conversation
in words
but a conversation
that has always excited me
satisfied me,
When the physical side came
it was like another conversation
exploring the mind of the panther
–my body would not be controlled–
it trembled
w/a passion unbounded by restraint.
That panther’s eyes,
though it was male,
were my eyes
staring deep into my own reflection–
the reflection
changed by the element of water
what the panther could not see
w/out it.
A poetic nature–
but also strong
very much its own.
I wondered what place I had in that reflection
because it was not just me,
but him,
at his own reflection.
And I think
w/constant reflection
what good could we possibly do each other–
each our own Narcissus
settled in curious yellow eyes
hugged by a taut cat’s body,
always ready
springs regarding every action–
Restraint not my nature–
Is this creature just a function
of my imagination–
a body that wants to restrain mine,
a curiosity that doesn’t exist?

I don’t  know when I received that poem, but my poetic response was sent in late December.  The brief letter,  mailed to her Brooklyn address, is self-explanatory.  As for the poem, it begins with a kind of self-mocking of my ambition to move up the administrative ladder, a possibility at that time.  Fortunately, I was passed over for a deanship, and I wound up working for the rest of my time at Suffolk, as I had started, as a classroom instructor on a satellite campus a much preferable alternative.  The poem moves to a recognition that our relationship was bringing me back to myself.



Still rough (the writing, not the feelings).  We’ll know next week about the “three-piece suit.”

Hope you have a Happy New Year.

See you soon.


Even before
(and if, after, it will continue)
the three-piece suit sealed
the accommodation,
the deal had been made.
Even before,
the surface had been trimmed,
the manner almost perfected,
like a chimpanzee wearing an usher’s
peaked cap,
ridiculous, yes,
but plausible.
Even before,
the disguise had worn thin,
and a hairy paw would protrude
through a frayed cuff,
or a lunatic gleam in the eye
signaled the life within
was not dead,
but only in chains of softest thread,
and then finding
an energy, at least as strong
as its own,
capable of waves of intensity,
an excitement
almost forgotten,
an all consuming gulp
from a yet full vessel
that caused the suppressed
song to reach
its own liquid
hot note
in celebration
of chance and circumstance
and fretful overtures
and scales played
to tune,
the rough melody
discovering its ebb and flow.

Constrained by time and space,
the ineffable moment snared
and worth more,
by far,
than the endless warp and woof
through which are stitched
the colorless days,
a shared rip in the web
rends the useless fabric
and asserts itself,
a healing wound,
a letting of good blood,
an unstopping of blocked passages
and constricted ways,
to be cherished,
the waters no longer flow.

But the ocean always
moves to the moon’s rhythms,
and only fools
rest content
in the full and sterile glare
of the sun.

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