I wrote this after visiting New York for a few days in 1982. I was overwhelmed by all the noise and blare, the energy bouncing around the streets, but afterwards what struck me the most was a kind of covert female energy, all the more forceful for being denied. As before, I’m writing about interiorities, the inside pushing to break out.
In New York the Women are Dreaming
In New York, yes, the women are dreaming.
In the lacework of hallways, hesitant with pearls,
In the violets of evening, one night reaching to the next,
In the amber water of Victorian aquariums,
Under glass, asleep in the Hotel of Stars
The women are dreaming and beginning to dream.
And in cold steel driving Manhattan, the women are dreaming,
In black granite and the city’s hunger
And all the food that feeds it, the power
Forced on its aging body, dying and ascending,
The women are dreaming. They’re dreaming
In the long weight of the physical buildings,
In masculine iron weeping in tunnels,
Dreaming in concrete, in the crumbling legs
Of archaic bridges, in the midnight freeways
The woman are dreaming and gathering their dreams.
They’re dreaming in boilers buried underground,
In the blue, untouchable voltage, in warm routers and switches,
In green waves of traffic surging by minutes,
In crowds emerging from the steaming subways,
In the child half-carried down the steps,
Looking back up at the sky in wonder.
They’re dreaming in money, in the glittering,
Delicate conduits of trust, the precise
Twinklings of magnetic data,
In platinum bars stacked in freezers,
In the severed heads floating through hallways
Of the mild, organic corporations,
The women are dreaming and changing their dreams.
In the hands of the butcher, the women are dreaming.
In the subtle reasoning of fat, in the carcass
Drained and lightened, in the broad, clean breasts
And flying shoulders, in the moist
Sawdust of bone and teeth, in the milk of the vein
Split open, in the tongues of cattle
Loose and pendulous, organs of the earth,
Of the lamb, of the life we feed on,
The woman are dreaming.
In the broken body, in the frozen nerve
Of the doctors, the women are dreaming.
In the snowy white rooms, in the shoulders of men
Bending over the patient, in scalpel and response,
In needle and clamp, in blood
Foraging through the gauze,
In the lost collections of Quaaludes and Valium,
In Bentatrax, in Tri-Barbs and Nidar,
In Placidyl, in Lotusate and Seconal
and the government of Thorazine,
The women are dreaming and trying to dream.
In the shoes of the dead, the women are dreaming,
In death’s double song, in the coffins of men
And coffins of women, the women are dreaming,
Fitful and stubborn, in the buildings burning
All night in East Brooklyn, South Bronx and Harlem.
They’re dreaming in the neon smeared on the asphalt,
In screaming hallways, in the iron cold darkness,
In twelve men taking turns
In a vacant lot, fire burning in a steel drum.
In the brain of the rapist the women are dreaming
And dreaming to breathe.
The women are dreaming at sea, underwater,
In the dark hulls of ships steaming in moonlight,
In planes and buses approaching the city.
They’re dreaming in Central Park at sunrise,
In the streetlights still burning, in the lovers
Coming home, dreaming as he takes off his shirt
And kneels, kissing her legs and belly, so carefully,
Sliding his hands up under her dress, loosening
The fabric and she draws him up, and with them
The women are dreaming and almost awake.
They’re dreaming in the bright wreckage of god
And goddess burning, dreaming the dawn
As they stand on the towers of Manhattan,
Their free, white dresses
Floating in the wind, and their eyes are open
And they’re dreaming of a world returning and alive,
Dreaming of the world and dreaming of women.