Fiction/Poetry

Five poems by Aaron Poochigian

The Last Days of New York City

Now I am like those saps who reminisce
about the good old days. Yes, rents are down
and Times Square rid of tourists, but I miss
streets giddy with libertine renown.

They’ve never been as tedious as this—
 just look at Broadway; look at Chinatown.
Where are the nights that met me like a kiss
from a Vampira in a busty gown?

I can’t stop thinking of Vesuvius— 
how suddenly it fossilized Pompeii. 
Surely it’s best if cities not die thus,
but by slow desolation, by decay?

Outside my window, there’s an empty bus 
just going through the motions, anyway.

Master Xi

He walked with humans several hundred years,
his secret: dragonfruit and radishes.
He wrote a book called “Nothing Lives That Is” 
on why impermanence defangs all fears.

He laughed and played the ch’in till he became
like water moving; like a mirror, still.
When he imposed the nothing of his will
there was no horrible he could not tame—

goodbye, pride tiger; goodbye, dragon strife.
We worship him because he, with his mind,
tried in a time when virtue had declined;
then he ascended and became death-life.


The Great Escape

That one is Bedouin
because he has withdrawn,
because he drinks at dawn
droplets from prickly skin.

The desert he is in,
saffron and cimarron,
goes on, of course, and on.
Coyotes are his kin.

The burdens that had been
his life to him—his lawn,
his Lamborghini—gone,
all that he does is grin

all night at freedom, black
and starry, grinning back.


The Question

Forced out again to hazard grocery shopping,
we stiff-legged loci of defiant heat
skidder among the mottled pigeons hopping
among the mottled snowdrifts on the street,

mum, all of us, but one: despite the stinging
bluster, despite contagion in the bluster,
a twice masked kid with headphones on is singing,
with all the gusto that his lungs can muster,

I Will Survive. In that falsetto voice
play lives, and pleasure—everything I miss.
Sad sacks, what if euphoria is a choice
we each could make, even in times like this?


The Survivors

Mistrust and a virus
are in the air,
so we, though desirous
of fun we can share,
pick through our shelves
in states of undress
and talk to ourselves.

Nevertheless,
though time goes by
like a sigh,
a yawn,
we do go on.

When the workday ends
and the sun has set,
where are the friends,
the charmers we met
for benders and flings?
This town is a mess
of abandoned things.

Nevertheless,
though life feels wrong,

though song
is gone,
we do go on.

Daylight is brief,
and trees are bare. 
There’s no relief 
from anywhere.
We either succumb
to plague or the stress
of tedium.

Nevertheless,
though the dire were right,

and light
looks wan,
we do go on.

______________________________________________________________________________________

AARON POOCHIGIAN earned a PhD in Classics from the University of Minnesota and an MFA in Poetry from Columbia University. Winner of the Richard Wilbur Award, his latest book, “American Divine,” came out in March, 2021. His work has appeared in such publications as Best American PoetryThe Paris Review and POETRY.

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  1. That such beautiful and moving poetry should be drawn from the depths of our lingering chaos and repressed dread is a testament to this poet’s stunning skills and sensitivities. These poems express many feelings that I’ve had during The Time of Covid, but don’t know how to express. I’m in L.A. where sentiments are similar, but NYC is hardest hit because it is the U.S. city with the most culture and comaraderie to lose. (I especially love the soothing Taoist/Buddhist approach in Master Xi…)

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