Post Road Magazine #11

New York Selves: An Elegy

Maria Hummel


As my favorite one, I die dramatically on the streets and end up in the memory of a future filmmaker. He gives me red mittens, snow, a lover who said something he regretted, a car speeding too fast.

This is the

I am too late for my life

self. An interlude of piano music and cherries in a small white dish in the kitchen. My movie lover swallows them whole, one by one, having heard there is poison in the pits.


Dumb dog with rich owner.

I pretend to be interested in love when I am only interested in food.

I walk the springy mud of the park, sniff poops left over from January icebergs, go home, get washed long and golden.

If the earth could breathe, I would be its third or fourth song.


I should leave out the bohemian self the one always drinking coffee wine life with a hundred friends who live in the cruddy apartments history awards geniuses shuffling from one party to another smoking lovemaking regretting waking and doing it all over again this is the self my mother drove from me with every atom of love in her bones beat me black and blue with pride don't be one of those people who won't grow up those selfish selves (but someday I run into hers climbing from a first-floor window her silk shirt hanging off her shoulders and a man's voice inside calling her back Sweetie I didn't mean it Crazy girl as her blond hair swings in front of her face like milk running down the wall)


Walking barefoot across the sharp nails of the beauty shop, over sidewalk brews of rain and oil, past sisters smoking in the park, after kissing closed the crack eyes, inside the tender skin of hotdogs and runaways, through the cemetery dug up for a new housing complex, wiping off the grave-rot, the lost haircuts, the old, unfashionable songs, so they'll never know I've been gone


The knight checking his hair in the skyscraper windows is 103 feet tall and the steel gray strand he plucks clinks when it hits the grass, which smells of old fires and sleeping children. The sky grazes the buildings behind him, eats white doves alive, but he nods at himself, satisfied, and walks on. He does not belong in this city, finding it too easy to turn from his own scarred reflection. Tonight he will try and fail to pick up a dozen girls, their mouths closing out his kisses, and I will be the one who gives in, finds a tower, a witch, a spell to help him feel the hero, throwing in a free ambiguous ending in case he falls in love with me, an accident outside his window in the empty morning, two red cars crippled like hearts around each other

and both drivers screaming

how could you not see me?


The one who runs away always runs to California. Becomes a gorgeous postcard scrawled with blue ink, a prophecy that could be for anyone, the electoral college, the singing raisins, the homeless. What season is it? I wonder if you can grow old when you don't know the years are passing. And to me, the self that stayed, too safe to reinvent, a patriot for fixed rent and flat pizza, these questions always seem less than they are, like the palms on the reverse, not trees exactly, but someone's neat drawing of trees, someone who hasn't learned perspective.

God Machine on Adversity

I thought create towns create streets create peaches and wooden chairs and they would sit in them and the world would stay Saturdays warm bread a howl in the alley where the cats chase each other in lust and shame. But it's not enough to bring life into the world anymore. Now you must meddle with it, work up a good storm, a war. The adversity advocates go door to door with their postcards, and the people sign them like prayers. Please, God. Yes, I say, please God. And muster up a long drought to remind them of their nakedness. Until they ask the parched ground the withered hours for forgiveness. And petition the dusty clover like a child who will not believe there is nothing left of the day and he must sleep now, who finds one more reason to stay awake, one more, who must be carried to the darkness and covered over and over.

Maria Hummel is a writer/editor at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Her longer works include the novel Wilderness Run and the chapbook City of the Moon, and she has recently published shorter works in Crazyhorse, LA Weekly, and Pleiades. She will be a 2005-06 Stegner Fellow.

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