Philip Quinlan is the author of a chapbook, Head Lands (White Violet Press, 2012). He received nominations, in 2011, for both The Best of the Net and Pushcart. His work has appeared in: The Flea, The Chimaera, Lucid Rhythms, Lilt, Soundzine, Numinous, The Avatar Review, The Centrifugal Eye, Sea Stories, Shit Creek Review, Shot Glass Journal, Snakeskin, Victorian Violet Press, Whale Sound, Studio 360, In Stereo Press, The Hypertexts, Lighten Up Online, Antiphon, Raintown Review, Kin, Unsplendid, New Trad Journal, and Atavic Poetry. He is also co-editor, with Ann Drysdale, of Angle Journal of Poetry in English, www.anglepoetry.co.uk. He lives in the UK.
An Englishman in New York
‘I recommend limiting one’s involvement in other
people’s lives to a pleasantly scant minimum.’
The city, singularly-named, sleeps sound.
Jaywalking blindfold on Fifth Avenue,
there shall I fear no yellow cab,
yet dare not venture underground
into the Valley of the Damned.
The lingua franca form is piss-take in patois,
polychromatic: dissonance and all that jazz,
free-improvised, and, like the static traffic, jammed.
Somehow this ill-becomes you; you know you know
one can imagine anything, and make it so.
There’s yin and yang in Little Italy:
a Chinese student crew shoots Cosa Nostra scenes.
Their thing is none of my affair,
although I wonder at their weaponry:
what do the bulges in those shot silk suits conceal?
(Newark: He questioned my arrival here,
touching his pistol like a talisman.
Quick-draw: No, thank you kindly, I’ll forgo the slow reveal.)
And there you go again, revisioning a history.
Rewind: you took it back and cut out the apology.
Here, none’s the worse for false false modesty
(it’s mostly smaller than I’d thought),
since Central Park goes on and on and on and on:
Strawberry Fields, in perpetuity.
Time squared is terminal velocity.
Wasn’t that something Albert Einstein said?
Sometimes I wish that I were better read … although
mistaken memories make for felicity.
In all of this, admittedly, there’s something of catharsis.
You seem to feel the need. At any rate, time passes …
Seeing it’s Sunday, it’s too quiet on the street;
in the cathedral I give peace another chance,
then send my feet an invitation to the dance,
and, hearing music, I retreat into the beat:
not jazz, exactly—sax, cabasa, scratch Latino band.
Percussion triumphs over melody.
Birdland: the baritone is way off Spanish key,
but the African-American soprano hits a shining C.
Yes, yes, and life goes on within you and without.
Excuse my whispering, but isn’t it your ‘shout’?
Blue Moon: with some strange currency I’ve somehow kept in hand,
I drink (I drink, therefore at least I think I understand).
I’m far from over, but I’m coming in to land:
the waitress is from Vietnam, the hooch from Tennessee,
while, on the jukebox, Chuck-E.-from-Kentucky’s finger-pickin’ good, real good, for free.
And hereby I—now, with my walking cane, a person of no interest,
but so, so glad I made it here—at last make peace with Liberty.
or, A Study in Subjectivity
Let there be dark. Make out her face maroon.
Our Lady of Perpetual Chagrin—
pursed lips to chalice lip, perchance to drown?
Homochromatic. Golden overtone.
Scarlet is one, one in vermillion;
so cinnabar and sanguine are akin.
Patina, verdigris: lichenous stone;
in grisaille, gray-ingrained grimalkin skin.
Thou fool, tragedian: hers is her own.
What hues and cries are these? What page? What scene?
Why then oil fits you: oil may be undone;
that bleed into the blue-black gruesome green.
Erroneus knows all, will so intone:
‘In vino veritas, viridian.
Blood’s relatively red.’
……………………………….. To each its twin.
The sun, itself, is nothing like the sun.