George Washington Bridge , Lower Level, Clear Day


Who would want to take

 the lower level of the

GW on a crystal clear

 day? If I put a fake

ice cube with a cock-

 roach in their drink

Would they say any-

 thing about it to me?

Would they feel a need

 to discuss their right

to choose when faced

 with duality? Would their

license plate have sig-

 nificance? Would the letters


& numbers undulate like

 a snake down the arm of

the Statue of Liberty

 at Equinox? Do they like

Jackie Gleason more than

 Pee Wee Herman? Have they

written books in Arabic

 denouncing Mickey Mouse?

Do they own a string of

 zipper factories? Do they

wash each blade of grass

 in their yard with a damp

cloth? Do they have dreams

 of their parents killing each


other? Are they afraid to

 have children? Have they

ever fallen thru ice?

 Been stuck in an electric

car between terminals at

 the airport in Houston?

Were they children who

 had run hotels in Mexico?

Were they child assassins

  in Pol Pot’s army? Are they

a child with memories of

 helicopters exploding stuffed

inside the body-bag of an

      adult driving over the Hudson


River, clear day, on the

 George Washington Bridge.

Just someone looking for

  a place to rent. Just some-

one on the way to a nursery

  to water geraniums &

Easter lilies. Just

  someone who uses a Spell

Check. An Image scientist.

  just someone doing a little

Inside trade. Had they seen

  Yellowstone burn? Did they

carry a pair of Chicago

  roller skates in the trunk?


Are there used condoms

  in their ashtray? Does

their left rear tire

  need a little air? Have

they been to the Panama

  Canal? Do they horde toilet

paper in their basement?

  Do they sleep with their

students? Had they been

  ordered to kill their teacher?

Were there baby shoes

  hanging from the rear-view

mirror? How old is their

  hairdo? How long are they


planning to wear those

                  socks? Do they keep the

Christmas lights on their

                  house up all year? Do they

pray to St. Anthony when

                  they’ve lost something &

then find it! Are their

                  headlights on? Do they think

golf would be more inter-

                  esting if the fairways were

different colors? Do they

  believe in Pro Wrestling?

Would they rather see

                  Llamas than dogs in the subway?


Is it someone related to

                  George Washington himself!

Could it be! Is it someone

                  who thinks the Tooth

Fairy real? A policy

                  strategist? A media wizard?

Maybe you grow ginseng root.

                  You were the Emperor’s Physician.

A Department of Corrections

                  officer. A security guard. Just

someone who lives the

                  house they were born in. The

Mayor—putting homeless

                  people in a cheap hotel.


Was that a Laundry Worker

                  on strike driving down onto

the Lower Level? A painter

                  who saw only Anti-Space? Someone

good with structure? Someone

                  who didn’t need any.

Were they eating Melba

                  Toast? Do they know UPS

leases ships to the Navy?

                  When they shit, do they “Shit

from the heart?” Do they think

  water-polo is played with rackets?

Had they learned to react

                  calmly to the death of strangers?


Do their windshield wipers

                  work? Do they consider the Cross-

Bronx Expressway “The Drop

                  Ceiling of Hell?” Are all

their brothers cops? Did

                  they know Mingus? Do they

live in an apartment full

                  of writers? When the President

left Washington , did they snap

                  off a parting salute? Just somebody

behind the wheel, thinking it’s

                  better to live our lives than

put a price upon them. Just

                  composing Verse—as in Universe.


As in the Future going on

  foot thru a Crowd. Had their

fathers died of nightmares?

  Do their sisters have exaggerated

& self-conscious attachments

   to the Great Blank Spaces of

American Culture that seem to

                   reduce them to a tiny yet inextinguish-

able song? Is their greatest vanity

                   Hairdressing the Hero? Do they see

the bridge as a Rainbow? Do they

                   think of rainbows as the Ever-Present

Unity Connecting Two Camps? Are

                   they 72-Hour-Awake-Truckdrivers on


Speed listening to Emmylou Harris

                   CDs? Does the Brdige remind them of

George Washington, cutting down the

                   cherry tree? Mother, I cannot tell

a lie. I cut down the Sacred Hoop

                   today. I cut down the great Tree

of Peace today Mother. Are they

  en route to a Ta’i Chi Ballroom

for an evening of Slam Waltzing?

                   Is this Noise that I hear pieces of

Silence breaking off from the

                   enormous & dumb & incorrigible

mass inside them? Do they shriek

                   & squeal—those Tires—or is


that Sound the pressing of human

                   Energy & Existence upon us, without

there ever being a taking account

                   of the Destruction? Do the poets

of the Poolhalls dream blue

                   pizzas thinking of Rilke in Munich

bleeding like the Sun to say “It

                   lies in the nature of every finally

perfect love that sooner or later

                   it may no longer reach the loved one

save in the Infinite.” Do they

                   take this Lower Level for to glimpse

Swans below? Are their Hearts as

                   tender as the inside of red roses?



January 1989



[Published in Grasslands.
© 1994 by Jim Cohn.]



(Writers & Books Publications, 1994)