for Gerald Stern
When I eat a grapefruit I peel the whole thing,
thumb-open pink sections, let slick liquid drip from chin
to table, a sticky scene of mayhem and grin.
Maybe there’s a plate or napkin but grapefruit doesn’t care
for being contained, sprays like a hot day’s sprinkler
on a running child, like the first uncorked pour of bubbly
foaming over the rim— or the Hudson in a hurricane,
how it waves its finger, rises up on streets, traps a man
waiting out his shift. And there, in that parking garage,
the river finds its lowest point, one man from Ghana
who vowed to bring his family across the ocean.
Into that gape water rises fast, slams a door.
Though a rescue team blows up a raft and paddles down the street,
though black caps with flashlights dock
and try to enter, though they call and call, they hear water,
only water, see the maw guzzling its fill,
gulping river as the whale took its Jonah.
They retreat, drift back to dry land
until the next day when the Hudson returns to its banks,
neither sheepish nor repentant, just drained
of tantrum. Then Anthony Narh is delivered, lifted out
with swollen cars. Flower bunches lean
on the shuttered space, the space I see as grapefruit
bursts its skin, makes such sticky innocent mess,
ritual morning mess, as I watch the street,
keep an eye on that river.

from The Cortland Review, Issue 63, May 2014