Purvi Shah

Signs there is a hole in Manhattan

“What outlasts all this business and craziness is poetry.” —Sunita Mehta
Die-hard New Yorkers gaze at the twin ends
of the island and cannot determine which path
leads downtown. The new city immigrants are white sheets
garbed in Kodachrome and public telephone numbers. Call
any day, any time. People are unequivocally welcoming –
city strangers go to greet everyone, lingering.
The immigrants are outnumbered only by patriots
in their tricolored regalia. Old immigrants adopt
this new passport to safety. Lanky white women escort
groups of Muslim children to reach primary school.
Burkha-clad women refrain from public conversation,
skirt quickly through streets. Union Square
is the new civic center. Through the day,
through the night, the public carves the ground.
According to the sign taped to the cragged concrete,
the coffee cart man is a block north.
Every house glows with a TV buzz. Subway riders
over the Manhattan Bridge are pulled like moths
to the windows on the track to Canal St. Underground
transit is subject to detour. Some of the lines are reported missing –
Q diamond runs express. Q circle is local and becomes R.
W is N until Brooklyn when it’s J or M or Z. Q=R; W=N –
words with absent hearts: queer or when. So much is beyond delineation,
beyond the circuits of language, like missing=bombs=smoked solace.

Purvi Shah
“Signs there is a hole in Manhattan” is from Terrain Tracks (New Rivers Press, 2006), and first appeared in Nimrod: International Journal of Poetry and Prose in Spring/Summer 2006.