The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2020

All Issues
JUNE 2020 Issue

Stepping Back

so, through our desolation,
thoughts stir, inspiration stalks us
through gloom

        --- H.D. The Walls Do Not Fall

I noticed the night
noticed a new half moon
I noticed it looked liberated
sharp. piercing

The sky was clear

I noticed my panic

I heard remote birds
I noticed the beggar I noticed
the dancer


Apprehension, speed
and speed I noticed

Someone fumbling
with a slippery glove

I noticed a quarter here’s
something, something

Was money safe?
Was larynx?
Sex safe?

I noticed hesitation
And how to think invincibly

That’s what it means
to be wise
think before you touch

See what you
cannot see

You can’t touch
It’s invisible
I noticed

Someone was kind

I noticed efficacy
I noticed warning
I noticed signs signaled

Touch of optimism
I noticed rituals

I noticed
shifts of mood
I noticed momentum

This was readiness is all
This was an almanac

I noticed closing’s closure
I noticed the Cloisters
I noticed distraction

I noticed

Words closer
to action

I noticed
a book

I noticed poetry
might save
you now

Save you
if you let it
It’s time

I noticed
startled words
jump on the
I noticed my speed
to stay alive

Speed is purpose
I noticed

Stand aside
Was something there
I noticed nothing

A subway stalled
I noticed anxiety

I noticed crying
People moving

Would I be
subject for interrogation

Was I abiding

Was I living rules

I counted them
I am behaving

What did one know?

Know this could be still
Know this could
be full

I noticed breathing

I noticed someone
freaking out in the bank
what he used to be
still elegant

But not what you see now,
he told them
He told them he used to be
on with credit

I was one with credit
He said,
I heard, I noticed

I noticed speed again
I noticed thinking
itself a victor

Speed is a vector

No one saying what’s going on
when you are in business

Put on a face

I noticed how your faces are in my
vocabulary now
I am in yours too, I noticed

I noticed out of pity
I noticed unheeding

I noticed the mirror of

All things equal
shimmering mirror
holding tight in brain

I noticed no one in the streets

I noticed the outcast
And around the world

The broadcasts in my head
I noticed
walking by

I noticed remembering
how one touched a
small thing gently
and it expanded
a rail, a glass, a corner
a trigger

Button to set off a bomb

How one stayed calm

I noticed
her beautiful eyes closed
I noticed thinking
open them please
Help me

I noticed children
I noticed obedience

Tender faces in routines

I noticed insouciance
Noticed determination

I noticed the
What is missing

What I won’t be able to
I noticed hesitating,
stepping back

I was in the world
I noticed it

World, world?

The parks are closed I noticed

I noticed the hardship of rain
when you live on the street

I remembered Berlin before
the wall came down
I remember

things opening

I noticed elsewhere
things closing down
I noticed barriers and guns

I noticed shorter hours,
longer days

I noticed the silver
foil I dropped
afraid to pick it up

Wipe it down
I noticed a cough

I remembered
a conference in Wuhan
bustling city, the lake
in happy translation

I notice the care in transition
How far we came
and back a step

I noticed the invisible scourge

The invisible body
invisible embrace

I noticed the child in the
hallway stepping
Good, good
stop I noticed

Stepping back
I noticed what
parts of the body shut down
I noticed my eyes
peering into screens
Eyes awake, and ears

I noticed my voice
next to yours
a continent away.

         March/April 2020

Photos by No Land, © 2020,


Anne Waldman

Anne Waldman is the author most recently of Trickster Feminism (Penguin), Sanctuary (Spuyten Duyvil) , co-translator of The Songs of the Sons & Daughter Of Buddha (Shambhala) and the album SCIAMACHY (Levy Gorvy).


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2020

All Issues