The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2021

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MAY 2021 Issue


Home Body

Try tickling yourself
And see where that gets you.

Sneak up on yourself and you will be spotted.

Few solitary past-times survive
In the age of back-slapping bonhomie.

I recommend gargling. Salt water only.

You can also look in the mirror.
I did and nothing happened.

You cannot get a cure for this
But you do get a word:


You try things in this vale of tears:
A sauce made of garlic or going to the ballet.

I watched closely. I looked carefully.

Suzanne Farrell seemed to be Violette Verdy
Peter Martins was Edward Villella.

Everybody was either somebody or somebody else.

Now I prefer the nameless clouds and the three kinds of twilight.
It is very damp and cozy where I live and I don’t go outside much.

I look out the window. I perform small experiments.
I have thoughts and after that, long after that

I go to bed.

Life Support for Angels

You hear rumors.

A team of engineers in Palo Alto
Is turning Pinocchio into a real boy.

Geppetto is no longer in the story.

Elsewhere people are clapping so hard
Fairies are falling out of the trees.

Experts are calling this

“The Re-enchantment”.

It is supposed to be good for business.

Even chubby gets a look in on beauty.
And it is no longer possible to be ungainly.

We don’t think there is a cave where
Children are being tortured under
The golden streets and high-end retail.

That is merely the old myth.

Never mention—so yesterday—
The nineteen twelve-year-old seamstresses
Sewing somewhere somewhat blindly.

Take time out today
To work on your sincerity.

We will all end on the same wondrous page.


Please forgive the boys who miss belt loops
And batted balls and the first Friday of the month.

Graduate from high school with a beautiful soul.

I never caught anything thrown,
But I am prepared to forget smirks.

Here is some scotch and soda to bathe your wounds.
You would do well to drink a dry Martini as night falls.

Of course, this is really me who is trying to make it,
And dial my own salvation out of anything goes.

It turns out the Greeks were not that easy going.
Nobody turns out to be that easy going. But

I am against scolding anyway.

Somebody told me I should worry about redemption

Somebody else told me I should worry about reconciliation.

A third party, very clever-looking, told me they were the same thing.

Then a guy I know said you cannot plow the same field twice.

That’s Greek too, but tiresome. What’s the use of
An oracle that guesses wrong or issues amphiboly?

Sometimes, a white dove is what you need,
But you always win with a white pony.

You can afford more than you think.
Save nothing for later. You will find

There will gradually be no later.


I loved those Sunday mornings
After nights of impossible drinking.

I’ve never been as lucid again.

Cheerful disenchantment:
Once nothing matters, nothing matters.

Later we go to Serendipity
For elaborate ice cream.

We liked the name and liked that
We knew what the name meant.

That was long before we knew
What every name means.

And it often arranged things,
Gathering us together with people
We came to know later

Or never.

The Cliché on Greenwich Avenue
Had the charming property of being
Owned by gay twins and a life expectancy
Of ten minutes because gangsters are

Never patient.

Procul Harum and MacArthur Park came later.

But I think we listened to Pretty Ballerina
And marveled at their viola da gamba.

Our sophistication was paper thin and
Immensely self-congratulatory but

You know,

I didn’t care then and I don’t care now.

Saddle River

Pussy followed by cat mom said.
Pussy followed by willow mom said.

Pussy willow followed by Spring
And Spring followed by the crack of dawn,
By civil twilight, and eventually,
Where we used to hang,

By a lazy and indifferent dusk.

We didn’t have phones so no one could call us.

We hoped they would be back the next day
With their private mispronunciation of

“Do you want to?”

Or maybe we didn’t even know if it was them again.

Just, I guess, somebody please.

But I did remember and
When I heard he died,
I was very sad.

I still am very sad and
Never the same again.


Bill Earle

Bill Earle has lived on Saint Mark’s Place since 1963 and watched the honest Lower East Side fade into the less honest East Village. His only occupation life-long has been as a teacher of philosophy, though at times he wished he were a painter or psychoanalyst.


The Brooklyn Rail

MAY 2021

All Issues