Back to Issue Thirty-Eight

Because the streets seem to have quieted



before midnight,
I take Ned out for a walk:

almost no one,
as we make our way
east on 15th Street

to turn the corner
onto the Avenue,
where all the streetlamps

seem to have migrated
down to the pavement,
gone into a world of light,

unbroken boulevard
of broken glass,
fragments the size

of human faces,
a near-infinity of edges,
and innumerable bits

of what’s called safety glass,
though that adjective belongs
to some other city,

never this one,
and would you ever believe
in it again,

once you’ve seen
a row of shops become
a glittery icefield,

what stood between us
and all we could maybe
or never buy shattered

to a block-long
premonition of ruin,
prohibiting even
a single step forward?
Ned turns his face up
toward me, as if to ask What?

And as we turn back I hear
beneath the chopper’s
anxious meter

the official message
of sleep’s commissioner:
Go home, back to bed,

there’s nothing here
to see. Gone by morning,
the lacerating path,

transformed somehow
to acres of plywood
to cover the storefronts’

empty gaze, ready to be
scrawled and tagged. Go ahead,
the city says, say their names.




The Stairs



Nearly 12, Ned lifts one broad front paw
onto the next step up, and when it slides

a bit to the right, pulls it in toward his body
and pushes from below. Then the left paw

follows, and he has hauled his bulk
up one step. Three flights. Remarkable,

really, how he huffs and focuses and steams
up the first flight, then negotiates a short set,

then confronts the longer, curving stair
that spills him out into the hall before our door.

There I praise aloud his determination,
his stamina and pluck; hard enough for him

just to stand up from the worn spot
on the rug where he sleeps the day away,

head parked on the cool marble threshold
of the bathroom door. He makes just one demand,

these morning and evening salvos up the stairs:
If I step too quickly, and pause

a few risers above him, he goes no further;
he waits until I walk back down to him.

He’s made it clear: we go side by side
or he will not go at all. In this way,

he proposes, we will walk
into the future. Sometimes I stall

at a cold plunge beneath my shoes,
as if the next step gave way

to a wrong-end-of-the-telescope view
of years ahead without him,

then he puts one thick blonde paw
on the tread immediately above us,

and waits for me to do the same.


Mark Doty is a recipient of the National Book Award, two NEA fellowships, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Whiting Writers Award, a Lila Wallace/Readers Digest Award, and the Witter Byner Prize. In 2011 Doty was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. He is a Distinguished Professor at Rutgers University, and also teaches in NYU’s low-residency MFA program in Paris.

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