A poem a day in April from Rutgers English PhD students and friends.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


Having been here
                               (back in New York, for one,
                               but also this apartment that we bargained for)
long enough to see our friends move two or three times,
break up, get back together, get fired, get promoted,
start grad school, finish grad school, move away, move back,
long enough to have had all the same friends and lose them all
& make new ones and start to have history with the new ones
to have institutional memory about the neighborhood
different from the Brooklyn we lived in before Baltimore
that four-years Brooklyn of my early twenties
that two-years Baltimore that keeps me from being a real New Yorker
that everyone blames the band breaking up on
as if we didn’t come back every week
I’m always tethered as long as you want me to be


What I’m learning as I get older,
& own property
& begin giving dinner parties
& stop giving dinner parties
the thing everybody learns & tells you but you ignore:
however successful you are, however rich, however cool
you’re still tending toward that middle age
and middle-aged craziness
& having at least one set of china people can admire
or not, maybe you eat off paper plates and can’t pay the phone bill
but you’re still putting out figs and photograph albums
& complaining about your apartment & your kids
& bragging about your kids
& gesturing with a glass of wine & saying something inscrutable
whether or not you have an oeuvre
or a legacy or whatever, whether or not
you’re a failure

ask me sometime about something I realized about failure but for now

This time, the early the middle thirties
or the late thirties the early forties if you're really a New Yorker
turns out to be our only time not to be crazy
I don't mean not terrible I don't mean not mean or selfish I don't mean not brilliant
but you know, it's when you get to be ordinary like a human
and also somehow our only time to be successes
but also our only time to be failures
If I’m a failure now it’s irrelevant to my daughter
It’s irrelevant to my sixtysomething self
with her glass of wine and her grizzled mane
or her dyed bob
or her washed-silk jacket

Daughter, you might not know it
Grizzled/bobbed self, you might not either
but you and you and I were only ever just alive


  1. Chills! And I'm planning to ask you what you learned about failure! (I'm wondering if it's the same thing I learned about failure!)

  2. I was about to write "Chills!" too before I even saw Laur K's comment! I love this & especially the last stanza <3