Jessica Greenbaum

Winner of the Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award in 2016

I Love You More than All the Windows in New York City

The day turned into the city
and the city turned into the mind
and the moving trucks trumbled along
like loud worries speaking over
the bicycle's idea
which wove between
the more armored vehicles of expression
and over planks left by the construction workers
on a holiday morning when no work was being done
because no matter the day, we tend towards
remaking parts of it—what we said
or did, or how we looked—
and the buildings were like faces
lining the banks of a parade
obstructing and highlighting each other
defining height and width for each other
offsetting grace and function
like Audrey Hepburn from
Jesse Owens, and the hearty pigeons collaborate
with wrought iron fences
and become recurring choruses of memory
reassembling around benches
we sat in once, while seagulls wheel
like immigrating thoughts, and never-leaving
chickadees hop bared hedges and low trees
like commas and semi-colons, landing
where needed, separating
subjects from adjectives, stringing along
the long ideas, showing how the cage
has no door, and the lights changed
so the tide of sound ebbed and returned
like our own breath
and when I knew everything
was going to look the same as the mind
I stopped at a lively corner
where the signs themselves were like
perpendicular dialects in conversation and
I put both my feet on the ground
took the bag from the basket
so pleased it had not been crushed
by the mightiness of all else
that goes on and gave you the sentence inside.


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Poem originally appeared in Poetry magazine's July / August 2012.  

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Elaine Equi on Jessica Greenbaum

It's a pleasure to look at everyday life through the lens of these poems, brimming with warmth and originality. In them, we find a serrated knife with a blade that "looks like / the ocean/ on a shiny day" — or are drenched by rain that falls "like a sky-wide water balloon was sliced open."

This writing abounds with such startling images, but more than that, is infused with an agile intelligence, generous spirit, and quick wit. In tone and temperament, some of the work feels closely allied with poets of the New York School. Many of the poems have an urban setting; one openly declares in its title: "I Love You More than All the Windows in New York City." It begins, "The day turned into the city / and the city turned into the mind / and the moving trucks trumbled along / like loud worries speaking over/ the bicycle's idea / which wove between / the more armored vehicles of expression." The way it links inner and outer worlds with an irrepressible effusive playfulness is, to me, reminiscent of Kenneth Koch. At the same time, these poems are thoroughly contemporary with a unique vision of their own. Whether the speaker is celebrating a "new respect for food trucks," lamenting a lost friendship, or simply perusing the day's mail, the voice is wonderfully engaging and direct. I want it to keep talking in its chatty, inclusive, and intimate way. Every object, every word, seems somehow special—offered as a gift.

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