Claudia Serea – In The City With Tired Bones

Claudia profile Dec 2020

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Live Encounters Poetry & Writing, Volume One, December 2020.

Claudia Serea’s poems and translations have been published in Field, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, The Malahat Review, Oxford Poetry, and elsewhere. She is the author of five poetry collections, most recently Twoxism, a collaboration with visual artist Maria Haro (8th House Publishing, 2018). Serea received the 2013 New Letters Readers Award, the Levure Littéraire 2014 Performance Award, and several honorable mentions for poems and chapbooks. Her poems have been translated in French, Italian, Arabic, and Farsi, and have been featured in The Writer’s Almanac. She is a founding editor of National Translation Month, and she co-hosts The Williams Poetry Readings.

In the city with tired bones

With her long legs
and a short-short dress,
spring rushes on 33rd street.

She’s late.
She’s sorry she’s late—
sorry, not sorry, everyone knows.

In the city with tired winter bones,
with her messy hair
and mascara-streaked face,
spring trots down 33rd street
in ridiculous high heels,
looking for the wrong address.

From Penn Station to Manhattan Mall,
she dances with bald men.
You know I’m no good, she says.

With blazing yellow daffodils
and blasting fire truck sirens,
spring shows up on 33rd street,

and brings me an email from Esmeralda,
the famous psychic and tarologist,
who promises me money and fortune,
money and fortune,
if I only click this link.

In the city with hacked bones,
with pigeons and trumpets,
and a Rangers parade,

spring leads her marching band on 33rd street
in this city of diamond bones,
and promises money and fortune,
money and fortune,
and fame, and good poems,
and blazing daffodils.

What about love? I ask.
What about it, she says.


I stopped to watch the kids playing
in the courtyard, yelling,
their sweaty faces,
lit eyes,
quick hands and feet,

the ball, alive,
the dribbles,
the shouts—

Pass, pass!!
Here, here!

A few cars passed by.

From the corner
of my eye,
I saw Death
down the street,
in his ragged raincoat,
scurrying away.

That’s right,
I muttered.

Nothing for you to see here,

On 33rd Street, I wished it would snow

Granted, it was a gray day
that smelled of snow,
the low clouds needing just a nudge
to let go of their down.

Wouldn’t it be nice
if I could make it snow?
It can’t be that hard.
After all, in Romania there were rumors
that Russians could make it rain at will.

It would be great to cover the world in white,
a sheet over its sins and wounds,
a chance to find new roads,
a clean slate.

On 33rd Street, in the sparkling city
full of Salvation Army bells,
I wished it would snow.

And it did.

It can happen to you, too.

And when it does,
you’ll write the first letters
on the new page,

dip a gloved finger
in invisible ink
and scribble

I was here.

Windy nights are like alcohol

They both bring back the past
in sips and blows,
both make me dizzy,

And, of course, the wind doesn’t speak to me
and the leaves don’t gossip
in a foreign language,
but still—

On this windy night, I walked out of the bar
where we went for drinks for my colleague Steve
who’s leaving the office,
and where I found myself telling Sam
the story of my life, over Heineken,
from Romania to the United States
(short version, because he asked,
and you should know that Sam and Steve
are half my age,
and charming).

So I realized I drifted through life
sometimes with eyes closed,
other times, wide open,
and, in rare moments, seeing it from above,
understanding it
with a dizzying clarity.

I left the bar with the distinct feeling
I’m drifting again,
eyes open.

Left and right, people rushed, laughing,
chatting on the phone,
not seeing,
engrossed in their own screens.

The night was windy
and charged.

A Chinese woman passed by
with a blanket over her head,
pushing a loaded cart
with two big sacks of cans
hanging on its sides,
contorted wings.

And her small eyes met mine.

I’ve seen
what you’ve seen,
they said.

Once, I went to a psychic who told me
the future is meant to be

This water bottle,
this thirsty gulp.
This messenger bike,
crossing at crazy speed,
this crowd at the traffic light,
this new skyline,

everything is meant to be.

This suitcase
I pack all night.

This camera I bought
because I didn’t have any pictures
of my previous life,

this woman who volunteers for a church,
who gives me her business card
with a number I’ll never call,

are meant to be.

This one way ticket,
this stamp in my passport
showing this alien number,
are meant to be.

This Customs officer
who looks bored,
hands me back my papers
and says, Welcome to the United States
without a hint of kidding.

This new money
that can’t buy back my life.

This pair of Roman sandals.

This step away from the past,
towards you.

All are meant to be.

© Claudia Serea