BITTERSWEET ALONG THE EXPRESSWAY:
POEMS OF LONG ISLAND


ARRIVING ON PAUMANOK

Paumanok: "The island with its breast
long drawn out." W.W., Brooklyn Standard

A Midwesterner, an inlander,
a lover of the interior,
arrives on Long Island. "Paumanok!"
he whispers, savoring his Whitman,
local aborigine. "Paumanok," he says,
half aloud. He feels salt water swaying
on every side of him. He looks around
for the rows and rows of ripening
corn he'd sighted down since he was
pushed from the womb. None. Expressways.

"Paumanok," he repeats, looking
at a map. "Manhasset...Mineola...Massapequa,"
he reads. He picks out the red and green lines
looping the long breast. He turns them
on his tongue like strange herbs.
"Cutchogue...Patchogue...Ponquogue,"
he intones. "Wantagh and Wickapogue."

He feels a mist drifting in from the shore.
"Quogue and Nissequogue, Nesconsett
and Amagansett," he sings. He hears
the surf splashing nearer. "Commack
and Speonk and Setauket," he chants,
"Ronkonkoma, Ronkonkoma." "Shinnecock,
Peconic." In the middle of a fog
sliding inland off the sea like
the souls of the dead, he says, softly,
"Mattituck, Montauk." He whispers,
"Paumanok, Paumanok." He begins
to hear voices from the interior.


BITTERSWEET ALONG THE EXPRESSWAY
As if in retreat
from the unending lines
of cars jerking and
swerving from Manhattan
onto Long Island

the slender bushes
crawl up the wire fence
preserving the strip
of greenery from
the service road

and like wild animals
trapped in a zoo
peer through wire diamonds
with bright orange pupils.


SUN ALSO SHINES 
Wherever I walk
stars for which
I have no name
fall toward me.

Leaves drop and drift,
rain and snow fall.

But sun shines too.

People glide in
and out of my life.
A few swirl back.

Sometimes icicles
bar the windows
I look out of.

Two infants from
another country have
become our children.

I listen to them
breathe at night.

Rain and snow fall.
The children cry, yes,
but they also smile.

And light from
some other place
shines in their eyes.

Press Release for Norbert Krapf's Bittersweet Along the Expressway: Poems of Long Island.

 

www.krapfpoetry.com