ISSUE FIVE
November 1998

Gregory Djanikian

Gregory Djanikian Gregory Djanikian directs the creative writing program at University of Pennsylvania, and teaches poetry workshops. He is the author of three collections of poetry, The Man in the Middle, Falling Deeply into America, and About Distance, all from Carnegie-Mellon. His new collection, Years Later, will appear in 2000.  His work has appeared in Poetry, American Scholar, Antioch Review, and Georgia Review.

At the End of the Day    Read Along with the Author


You are walking home
while the city shimmers
in the hot summery distance—

(Today, today, says the train
pulling away from the station)—

and the cracks in the sidewalk
are like the turns of a story
you've been following
thinking they might include you.

A bottle of wine, a splash
of roses are peeking out of your satchel
like bulletins for a new life
you could begin imagining.

Three tulips by themselves
are stunning the afternoon
with their yellow open hearts;

and the cat's blue eye:  a glittering
among the many periwinkles.

And someone calling out from a window,
"Hello, hello, hello," maybe
to you, maybe to no one
you can see at the edge of evening.

The porch steps rise toward
some denouement, the green door
waits to turn on its hinges—
each breath is poised, you think,
for this moment:

your hand on the knob,
the latch clicking open,
then darkness rushing out
and taking you in,

and everything returning
easily to itself again

as if your passing through
were only rumor, or recollection,
as if you had arrived a long time ago.

 

 

You Just Don't Get It    Read Along with the Author


I will lavish on you nasturtium
and rose, she said, I will bare
my throat for your kisses.

  Her words were a powerful elixir,
  all my aches were trembling to depart.

I will stand, she said, in the window
of light, waiting for birds
to wreathe their songs about me.

  This was a real feat, I thought,
  a phenomenological rarity.

I will make you a linen suit of my love,
I will sew it with laughter
and a hundred difficult questions.

  Another new emperor, I imagined,
  but the question part was intriguing.

Tell me your true name, she said,
the stars will embroider your initials,
the zodiac will spin with anticipation.

  Speaking of anticipation, I was feeling
  a little edgy, & what had happened to the throat thing?

My bed is a bower of blisses;
under the cool sheets, the waterfall
of my deepest desires will sound.

  Bingo! I thought, in my lady's
  chamber, no mistaking the signs.

Let my heart call forth
a republic of joy, it will sing
above a choir of the darkest clouds.

  This was taking a bad turn, this jaunt
  into the airy (eerie?) heavens.

Let the doors of my heart
open only to the touch of no touch,
love's mysterious fluency.

  Touch of no touch, what did she think
  I was, Mr. Invisible? & that door business...

My lover is a cockleshell
I wear by my heart, my lover
is the absence inside it as well.

  Listen, I told her, earth's
  the right place, etc...so maybe another time.

Summer is a wind in my blood,
and fall glories about my heart,
then winter's frost is love's sting.

  She had some good things to say I remember,
  but the chemistry, sheesh, you know what I mean?

 

 

Break Up    Read Along with the Author


It's 1 A.M. at the Golden Grill
and he's looking down at his bourbon
as though he might stick his nose in it,
what the hell, before he gets to the bottom.

From the dark booth in the corner
someone's yelling, "Where have I put my love?"
and that sounds right to him, this sense
of having misplaced, having lost
the location of:  if only he could think back,
gesture by gesture, word by word.

Lorrine and the True Sensations
are about to sing "Barrelin' Down to Your Heart"
and he's grateful for something loud and raucous
to keep him together, push
against him on all sides:  along the bar,
everyone turning around, giving
his loneliness to Lorrine, all he's got.

If his wife walked in just now
from wherever she was—Idaho, Wyoming?—
he'd do something extravagant, take
half his clothes off, sing Sweet Wilderness of You
and dedicate it to the one he loves.

He's been quiet and still so long
he wants to cause a riot, something physical,
maybe meanness sitting on his stool for a change
and having a drink with everybody.

It could go on all night, this feeling
that he's missed something along the way,
something now the couple getting up to dance
might have, all hands with each other,
all thigh muscle and crotch, tight with the music.

And when he walks out of anyplace now,
he'll know if it's for the last time:
he's seen that walk,
and the door it passes through.

Love turning away, love running out:
he'll be here till morning thinking about it.

 

 

Gregory Djanikian: Poetry
Copyright 1999 The Cortland Review Issue FiveThe Cortland Review