“The world’s furious song flows through my costume.”

RED SHIFT
by Ted Berrigan

 


Here I am at 8:08 p.m. indefinable ample rhythmic frame
The air is biting, February, fierce arabesques
on the way to tree in winter streetscape
I drink some American poison liquid air which bubbles
and smoke to have character and to lean
In. The streets look for Allen, Frank, or me, Allen
is a movie, Frank disappearing in the air, it’s
Heavy with that lightness, heavy on me, I heave
through it, them, as
The Calvados is being sipped on Long island now
twenty years almost ago, and the man smoking
Is looking at the smilingly attentive woman, & telling.
Who would have thought that I’d be here, nothing
wrapped up, nothing buried, everything
Love, children, hundreds of them, money, marriage-
ethics, a politics of grace,
Up in the air, swirling, burning even or still, now
more than ever before?
Not that practically a boy, serious in corduroy car coat
eyes penetrating the winter twilight at 6th
& Bowery in 1961. Not that pretty girl, nineteen, who was
going to have to go, careening into middle-age so,
To burn, & to burn more fiercely than even she could imagine
so to go. Not that painter who from very first meeting
I would never & never will leave alone until we both vanish
into the thin air we signed up for & so demanded
To breathe & who will never leave me, not for sex, nor politics
nor even for stupid permanent estrangement which is
Only our human lot & means nothing. No, not him.
There’s a song, “California Dreaming”, but no, I won’t do that
I am 43. When will I die? I will never die, I will live
To be 110, & I will never go away, & you will never escape from me
who am always & only a ghost, despite this frame, Spirit
Who lives only to nag.
I’m only pronouns, & I am all of them, & I didn’t ask for this
You did
I came into your life to change it & it did so & now nothing
will ever change
That, and that’s that.
Alone & crowded, unhappy fate, nevertheless
I slip softly into the air
The world’s furious song flows through my costume.

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