David A. Porter was a co-founder and the managing editor of 20 Pounds of Headlights, a literary annual published in San Francisco in 2004. He has published fiction, non-fiction and poetry in Alexandria Quarterly, Cold Mountain Review, Hotel Amerika, Nimrod, Orange Coast Review, Paterson Literary Review, The Santa Clara Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, The Surfer’s Journal and W42ST. Porter is a graduate of Rutgers University and San Francisco State University, where he received his MFA in Creative Writing.
MORTALITY, FINANCIAL DISTRICT
The cheap Middle Eastern places
where we eat lunch—
the percussive Arab music,
the scent of garlic and lemons.
On Belden Place the girls sit
with coffee and Gauloises,
the menus they carried through the afternoon
at rest beside them.
A chef and his line cooks
sit on milk crates and smoke;
they wear soiled whites
and chat in Spanish.
There is a slow flood of traffic
down Market Street,
the chime of the doorman’s taxi whistle
from the front of the Palace.
Late afternoon sunlight falls
across the clock atop 33 New Montgomery.
The clouds above the Hobart Building flush,
and a cold pink light
settles on the city.
Pigeons flutter up
through the chilly shadows,
a tiara of fog
slips down the hills.
All this will desert us.
POCONO OUTLET MALL, ROUTE 80 WEST
— for John Ferguson
Something here loves a road.
It’s Christmas! Oh, B-A-B-Y, let it snow!
We are so far from May,
driving toward the cusp of nativity,
enough dope to stop the Persians at Thermopylae.
Smoke gets in my eyes,
and a fairy dust has settled
on the Queen Wilhelmina Windmills of my mind.
How many of these do we have left?
Look at us driving across New Jersey
in my dad’s Land Rover
like some fucking-asshole rich kids,
about to cross the Delaware
but as revolutionary as Epcot Center,
belted into a plastic trolley,
climbing the innards of a giant golf ball.
I have dissolved into the passenger seat,
pinned like a Nabokov butterfly.
It’s a mercenary pot,
but I was never much smarter than this;
confused Susan Sontag with Erica Jong,
tried to sing along with Joan Didion.
Pennsyltucky is the longest state,
I keep emptying my pockets of miles.
I’m out of stardust kisses,
fairy godmothers and honeyed whispers.
We could drive all night, like Springsteen,
sunrise behind us as we crest western Ohio,
Route 80 all the way to Californ-i-a—
sing it with me, highway children!
My heart beats the way kids skip rope,
I’m going for the record.
Button-down the window,
have to have a little bit of cold.
The Poconos seem stunted by December,
but these towns will become cities,
these loves will be made flesh.
We have finally turned 30,
and now we know,
youth is beauty, beauty youth;
we loved and lost, like everyone else.
How will this seem once we are old men?
Newman and Redford? Ha!
More like Lemmon and Matthau,
but let me have it—
a twilight comedy,
Sophia Loren wrapped in mink,
Katharine Ross hanging laundry,
in a backyard west of Wilkes-Barre.
Our heroes will die and we will follow,
morphine drips and powdered eggs,
our boots a neat pair beside the door.
Yet here we are,
wheels above the highway,
impossible to see our tires
on this cold and shouldery road.
Everything I say sounds frostbitten.
I watch these woods fill up with snow,
every inch of them crowded with the dead.
The difference between immigrate and emigrate.
To travel to that world
whose margin fades for ever and ever?
No, to dust. To silence and to dust.
We have miles to go before we sleep,
This is all of Gaul from Caesar’s vantage—
let’s bring these mountains to our knees.
I’m putting my queer shoulder to the wheel.
— for Leontios
A silver rain welcomed us to Vienna.
You fell asleep in my arms during dinner
at the restaurant next to Kettenbruckengasse Station,
and I carried you home down Grungrasse.
At number three the trees leaned over the garden wall.
A breeze, damp and sweet, rippled their leaves
like the surface of a faraway sea,
and a quiet I love everywhere descended.
Stray raindrops glistened
in the bright beam of a single headlamp
affixed to the handlebars
of an old bicycle.
A gentleman in a coat and scarf
pedaled toward us,
to tell us everything is okay,
to continue on.
To put us down,
soft as starlight,
in his book of sleep.
TOLL FAMILY PLAYGROUND, NOVEMBER
I had forgotten
these things I love:
the cold and cloudless sky,
the soft shimmy
of brittle leaves
in a biting breeze,
the sprawl of shadows
cast across the playground
by the streetlights
as darkness arrives
in a greatcoat and top hat.
The ache in my fingers,
the mist of my breath,
as I lean over to write this.
October, and perhaps everything is a miracle:
the damp, battered Roma Transport Pass in my pocket,
the wet leaves upon the sidewalks of Testaccio,
a rainbow over the Giardino del Quirinale.
We dream of levitation,
from the stench and strain
of our bodies,
but only death
shall release us.
Until then it is useless.
The Magdalene weeps
at the bloody feet
of the deposed Christ,
Thomas presses his uncertain fingers
into the wound,
St. Sebastian is pierced
with a quiver of arrows.
The body returns to us,
guilt and regret.
It is not enough
to be forgiven.
I want to be
garlanded, haloed, perfected—
I want to be absolved.
as Christ must,
Enthroned above us
in the bright ether,
freed from pain.
For now I must settle for hot tea with milk and sugar
in a café at Santa Maria in Trastevere;
walking up Via Della Quattro Fontane
to hear the church bells ring
above the rain.