Every single day Every Day Poets posts a new poem. Today, November 5th, I’m up. Red Star, one of only two pantoums I’ve written, is also one of only three poems I’ve written directly about my love, V, and me (one of the others is here).
We met at a restaurant in the East Village of New York City where we both worked the graveyard shift for the nightclub crowd, she as a waiter, me as a line cook. Night Birds was the kind of place where you could score drugs, get murdered or learn how to juggle. It was the kind of place where you went to work if you were new to the city or couldn’t score a job elsewhere. There were actors, punks, musicians, heroin addicts, illegals, illiterates, painters, writers, ballet dancers, students, losers and dreamers, a number of whom, I’m sure, thought I was strange: a country boy who seldom spoke and never smiled, a long haired young man who owned one pair of pants with the fly sewn shut because the zipper had broken, a lonely guy who thought V was the peculiar one. Later she told me she could see that I had a lot of love to give, but I honestly don’t know how she recognized that in the sullen weirdo, and she was certainly the only one who did see it. She wore a faded green raincoat, had bleached the color out of her hair and fixed it to stick straight up, and not one speck of makeup. Those first weeks she was always tired, zombie-like tired. The faded bleached out blank look, combined with her tiredness, made her appear like a somnambulist, yet a perfectly efficient one. She walked crisply into the kitchen, slapped the neatly written orders down, walked crisply back out. The way she did that impressed me. It was the first sign of her intelligence. She performed the job of waiter in her sleep, while others, fully awake, lurched about frantically.
V and I slummed together in New York, backpacked in Europe, drove a van across the United States and slummed in other cities. For years we slept on the floors and daybeds of rat, roach and termite-infested dives, rode out a hurricane in Miami and escaped riots in Saint Petersburg. None of this compares with the emotional journey we have traveled. Beware, young lovers, love changes—radically—over time. V and I have been through things that tear other couples to little bits. She calls love a miracle. Not falling in love, but staying in love. “Any fool can fall in love,” she says, “but everything conspires to tear it apart.” Red Star is about our emotional journey.
V and I together at one of our favorite places, the Noguchi Museum.