Fall 2010, Volume 9

Poetry by Kaite Hillenbrand

View from the 86th Floor

The sun melts below the top
of the Empire State Building,
waving through abandoned heat.
Delectable languages float up
from the city, wisping away
on the isolating wind, voices
fragmented, blown coolly about,
messages spent, none of them
speaking to me.
                       I’m visiting
from West Virginia, wearing
the blue sundress whose strap
broke in Central Park. I tied the
loose piece to my bra, bought
needle and thread, sewed it up in a
bathroom stall at the Metropolitan
Museum of Art. After, in the ancient
Egyptian display, I saw etchings
of people lining boats, sailing away
to “the beautiful west,” realm of the
dead. I’m comforted, breath-
taken, thinking of travels together
to where the setting sun goes
to be reborn.
                   Sunset shines rusty
in a girl’s hair here above the city.
Yesterday, an older white woman
with hot pink, spiky hair, and a home-
less black man lying on the sidewalk
holding a sign that read, “Tell Me Off:
$2.” I can’t decide what to make of that,
a man who’ll let you relieve your need
to vent, providing his shipwrecked
body. What about the sailing? The calm
trip to the beautiful west we all take
together? It’s an ocean-tossed journey,
really, but I want to think we can adjust
the rigging, synchronize the oars, before
our boats dock.
                    In Times Square, balloons
rise into an uncluttered sky on a screen
attached to a building. My audio guide,
Tony, tells me immigrants make
New York: over 100 cuisines in
restaurants here. Go, taste vinegars,
starches; place on your tongue pan-
seared homes adapted for a curious,
multicultural palate.
                         The city is so dense,
so packed, so tall, if everyone came
out at once surely the streets would
become a deep sea of stacked people.
Underneath is another world we can’t
see, but we feel in the upward winds
of subway grates, subterranean tunnels
where I’ve heard a cello, where I sat
next to a man dressed like Peter Pan,
if Peter Pan wore retro gym shorts,
suspenders, a feather in his green cap,
announced he’d been hitting on a bouncer
just to fluster him.
                        Headlights flick on
in the city now; it’ll never get dark,
but the sun’s slowly ducking below
overcast sky to let the neon glow take
over for the night. Tony says, higher
up on the 102nd floor, you can see
snow and rain falling up, creating
an impossible snow-globe at the tip
of your tongue. It’s probably quiet
there, especially in winter, the snow
a soft muff.
                 Taxis flow in long lines
along 5th Avenue. Street lamps alight,
lining bridges. I eat a sweet, crisp
nectarine bought on the street, cool
and firm in summer heat, exact taste
and hue of the sinking sun, which I
watch with the corner of my eye,
which I follow with all who search
for the peaceful, beautiful west.


BIO: Kaite Hillenbrand is the Poetry Editor of Connotation Press: An Online
Artifact, and she teaches writing at Waynesburg University in Waynesburg, PA. She earned her M.F.A. in Poetry from the University of California, Riverside, and she earned her M.A. in Literature from WVU. Her poetry was most recently published or is forthcoming in Kestrel, Writers¹ Bloc, Connotation Press, and Buzzard Picnic, and an interview with her appears online at The Bees Knees.