Oh, January

When it rains and rains, the sky gray all day, I think of this old, old poem:


Absence Is the Color Gray

“ … far from our small selves and our temporally united
passions in the cathedral of Januaries”
— Frank O’Hara

The phone hangs
off the hook, unable to answer
the most common prayer. My fight
becomes a cry against
the slender rain. People come

go, strike implausible airs in smeared
and steamy windows. I improvise
my own endings, look hard
for words that fit. They burn
my palate like bad wine.

Mannequins posed in the cold light:
dangerous, unerring. I could walk back uptown, turn left
at Times Square and ride a bus under the river.
With luck it might snow by morning.

Worms crawl under my door, seek
refuge from the seeping earth.
There is no cathedral of Januaries—only
a stoic phone and the endless
bleeding sky. I’d like to call you

five years ago, or better, six. And hear you
crash around that first kitchen on Cutler Street, strands
or steam rising from bowls pile high
with ziti and Parmesan cheese.
We would throw our pennies
on the floor, plan dreams around egg cream glasses
and minimal violence.

The steam
from my coffee cup offers a warning.
Perhaps today I will find
the words I need to write.
I promised to write.


(“Absence Is the Color Gray” was published in my chapbook A Steady Longing for Flight.)