Giant Night

by Anne Waldman

Read by Emma Rye

Awake in a giant night
is where I am
                   There is a river where my soul,
hungry as a horse drinks beside me
An hour of immense possibility flies by
and I do nothing but sit in the present
which keeps changing moment to moment
How can I tell you my mind is a blanket?
It is an amazing story you won’t believe
and a beautiful land
where something is always doing in the barns
especially in autumn
                         Sliding down the hayrick!
By March the sun is lingering and the land turns wet
Brooks grow loud
The eddies fill with green scum
Crocuses lift their heads to say hello
Soon it is good to be planting
By then the woods are overflowing
with dogwood, redbud, hickory, red and white oaks,
hazelnut bushes, violets, jacks-in-the-pulpit,
skunk cabbages, pawpaws and May apples
whose names thrill you because you can name them!
There are quail and rabbits too—but I go on too long
Like the animal, I must stop by the water’s edge
to have a drink and think things over
That was good. The drink I mean
I feel refreshed and ready for anything
Though I’m not in Vermont or Kentucky unfortunately
but in New York City, the toughest place in the world
And it’s December
Here someone is always weeping, including me
though I tend to cry in monster waves then turn into a fish
wallowing in my own salty
                         Puddle! Look out
If you aren’t wearing boots you’ll be sorry
and soggy too
This season’s cruelty hurts me
and others, I’m sure, who’d rather be elsewhere but can’t
because of their jobs, families, friends, money
It’s rough anyway you look at it
But what can you do?
It’s worse elsewhere, I’m sure
Take Vietnam
No thanks
I think about Vietnam a lot, however
and wonder if I’ll ever “see” it
The way I’ve seen Europe, I mean
Those pretty Dutch girls!
They all ride bicycles
In Venice you travel by boat or foot
The metro and the underground register like the names
in connection with them:
Hugo, Stephen, Stuart, Larry, Lee, Harry, David, Maxine
What does it all mean?
I never ask that, being shy
In this apartment in which I dwell these thoughts pass by
I hope you won’t mind the mess when you do too
You just walk in up a flight and you’re in paradise
A cup of coffee, an easy chair, a loving person waiting for you
who’s washing the dishes, reading a book
Outside someone’s worrying about love and not sitting down either
He’s probably freezing his ass off right now!
And other vital parts which would feel great in the country,
taking a walk, a hike, shoveling snow
Though you can do that right here
The hub of the universe is where I am in a night whose promise
grows with me, unlike the snow melting in the gutter
Whatever I do, it is beside me
I look out the window, there is night
I sit in this lighted room knowing this night
Night! Night! I wish you’d go so I could go
to the post office, the bank, the supermarket
Why aren’t they open at night? I wonder
Then realize I’m not the only person who’s
considered in the grand scope of daily living
There are those fast asleep who want to be and would be horrified
if the post office, the bank, and the supermarket
were only open at night
for you can’t be all there all the time
I myself am only here part of the time
which is enough
                  For there are other places to run to
Uptown, for example, where energy rushes you
like some hideous but intriguing chemical
you can’t ignore
and you want to absorb the wisdom these buildings have
How do they feel so high up like that?
Pretty good, they seem to say in their absolute way
But it’s the people inside who turn us on
By then you are gone off in a cab
and you are not alone
                        I am beside you
The streets are familiar from just traveling through
We rarely stop and when we do there’s a reason
Which is too bad
We miss a lot for this same reason
They’re probably feeding the chickens about this time
The smell of chicken feed overwhelms me
The rooster crows on a 7th Street fire escape
Breakfast is ready
                         There is a forest by the river near the barn
where things are happening,
a whole new world on the edge of dawn
My little world goes on St. Mark’s Place
To be not tired, but elated, I sing this song
I think of The Beatles and The Beach Boys
and the songs they sing
It is a different thing to be behind the sound
then leave it forever
and it goes on without them, needing only you and me
Here I am, though you are asleep
The morning of December 3rd dawns on me
in the shape of a poem called “Giant Night”
It must end before it is too late
All over the world children will celebrate Christmas
And families will gather together to give and take this season
Other religions and customs will prevail in their own separate ways
having nothing to do with Christmas
Soldiers will cease fire
Some won’t know the difference but might be able to sense it
    in the air
The smell of holly, pine, eggnog
The friendly faces of Santa and his elves
All these will add up to something and be gone forever
Just like what is here one minute and not the next.