Mini-Site by Michael Benedikt
Click here for Brief Benedikt Bio
T H E F O U R T H O F
J U L Y
& NEW YORK AND NEW JERSEY & LAURA AND ME
New Jersey, along the western Hudson shore,
where my sweet lady Laura doth dwell, in handsome
high-rise facing Upper West Side Manhattan, hath big, natural cliffs (they're called "The Palisades")
But compared for example to New York City, only relatively small firework-displays on July Fourth.
On the other hand, in Manhattan, along the eastern Hudson shore where I doth dwell in low-rise,
in the Columbia University area--
We can see really immense Municipal fireworks on July 4th, but have only relatively tiny & mostly
Known informally, among enlightened Columbia University students dorming thereabouts, & also
various long-time, local West Side residents like me, as "The Stone Declevities"
Which drop down via various zig-zagging stone stairways, from Riverside Drive to Riverside Park
& Since, Fourth of July nite, I was not wise & smart enuf to accept my darling Laura's sweet invitation
to scoot over to her picture-window'd apartment on the opposite Hudson shore, there to behold
in panorama NYC's grand & glorious whiz-bangs co-sponsored by Macy's Dep't. Store
& projected just o'er Manhattan's skyline from several sites in Central Park & also several
great big barges anchored in East River
(The angle-of-vision from my particular digs for the grand annual event, as Laura hath wisely pointed out
to me, being far, far less than optimal)
As darkness fell, down those stone stairways athwart those Stone Declevities we did run, with lovely Laura
carrying champagne-bottle & a couple of long-stemmed plastic glasses, & I a wicker picnic-basket
replete with apple-pie, petite-fours & napkins galore, & a US-flag-patterned tablecloth
--Which was certainly suitably celebrative of us, we trusted, on the night of the Anniversary of Our
Country's umpteenth Birthday. Anyway
As darkness fell, what a great view from Riverside Park we did have, of the stately, stone-faced Palisades;
plus heard we many distant, miniature firework explosions, like tiny, muffled popguns going off,
accompanied by faintly flashing lights somewhere o'er on distant, misty Jerseyside;
& As we stood there holding hands, & then sat down duly for serious smooching, on bench of Riverside Park
facing Westward towards the Hudson & gazing New Jerseywards & in the opposite direction from NYC's fireworks (with tablecloth spread out between us, & contents of wicker basket tumbled out upon it, sipping champagne from long-stemmed plastic glasses)
Midst merry company of miscellaneous raucous zealots detonating cherrybombs & treetop rockets all
--In two senses, together my lovely laughing Love & I got almost Bombed!
New York City's & Macy's USA Birthday display we heard but distantly, thudding tremendously above
but behind us from Central Park afar & those barges still further off, over in East River
--But alas, invisibly, due to the direction in which, entranced together whilst we held hands, my Love & I were steadfastly gazing;
Best July 4th display we could see, gazing
across the starlit, sparkling Hudson waters
(Besides various fleeting flashings from wing-lights of great Kennedy & Newark Airport airplanes plying
their Hudson River route, loaded with apostate hordes of American vacation-travelers bound for
& Tinier twinklings from smaller airplanes seeking aerial views of pyrotechnic entertainment on
that night, plus madly-blinking running-lights of nautical pleasurecraft jockeying for position in
perilously close proximity& also trying to get a better look--
& Besides far-off-blazingchains of lights draping distant, uptown, towers of George Washington Bridge
like some intricate, miniature toy neatly linking my own New York State & shorelines of Laura's New
Jersey; & assorted scatter'd advertising-signs just beyond The Palisades winking on & off incessantly)
Were some faintly luminous twirlings on the far-off Western Hudson horizon, which my NJ-
Geography-experienced dear & lovely Laura did identify for me immediately,
As emanating "bravely, from a tiny little mini-park, located at the far end of North Bergen...."
Thinking over that July 4th picnic-date now,
I remember how it suddenly occurred to me towards midnight,
only just in passing & even as--panting & laughing & with dwindling fireworks still thudding o'erhead,
Laura & I dashed back up stone stairways, still carrying empty champagne-glasses & by then also
empty champagne-bottle as either souvenirs or else (who knows?) perhaps to recycle;& then raced
semi-stumbling back up to my apartment for the balance of the evening for various private July 4th fireworks of our own--
That, to the scatter'd groups of carefree merry-makers assembled relatively riotously back down there
along Riverside, My Love & I--on our bench alone together there & holding hands & hugging &
smooching & staring into each others eyes & not paying much attention to them or anything else in the world for that matter except of course for each other
May have looked like the proverbial "Two People in the Wrong Place at The Wrong Time."
--Yes, especially as we were running back up to my apartment & away, I wondered, did we look that way?
But I remember even now that (as together my Love & I ran swiftly by) some passing, good-natured stranger
wearing party-hat, did single us out from various sidewalk strollers to wish us--
somehow as if personally--a "Happy Fourth of July";
As if despite our total involvement with each other, & our laughter, we two, too, might have had
something serious to do
With Our USA's Happy Birthday
--& With a certain Originality, on "Independence Day".
The first draft of 'The Fourth of July and New
York and New Jersey & Laura and Me" dates from l986.
The poem was completed for 4th of July l999. This is its World--& Web--Premiere.
© Michael Benedikt l999. All rights reserved.
Michael Benedikt has published five collections of poetry: The Badminton at Great Barrington; or, Gustave Mahler & The Chattanooga Choo-Choo (Univ. Pittsburgh Press, l980); and with Wesleyan Univ. Press, Night Cries (prose poems, l976); Mole Notes (prose poems, 1971); Sky (l970); and The Body (l968). Books he has edited include a 600-page anthology of global prose poetry: The Prose Poem: An International Anthology (Dell/Laurel, l976). He is also co-Editor of 3 anthos. of 20th-Century "Poetic Theatre" from the French, German, and Spanish (E.P. Dutton), and is translator of many plays in those volumes. A former Poetry Editor of The Paris Review, his editorial selections are represented in The Paris Review Anthology (Norton, l990). His work appears in circa 60 anthologies of US poetry. He has taught at Bennington, Sarah Lawrence, Hampshire, and Vassar College/s; and at Boston U.; and reads from his poetry at many colleges, universities & bookstores around the USA. He lives in NYC. E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
OTHER BENEDIKT LINKS
THE ACADEMY OF AMERICAN POETS
--new pages (5/99). Includes selections from his published poetry
a more complete bio. than is given here, & several additional Benedikt links
SELECTED BENEDIKT SITES
Link to a new
(6/99) Mini-Site with new poem on a Showbiz theme,
'Of Orson Welles' Remarkable l938 Radio Broadcast The War Of The Worlds'
for The Thesaurus and Other New Verse, including other verse
from Benedikt's mss.-in-progress
including 'Of Orson Welles... War Of The Worlds.' Manuscript-in-progress is entitled OF:
Site contains a complete list of Other Benedikt Links
Click for Theatre, Film & TV Poems, other poems about Entertainment & Showbiz, including 3 new short poems, a version of 'Ringo & Rita' from OF: & two prose poems including a prose poem praising Mae West. To add to the merriment, also brief descriptions of Benedikt's 4 anthologies of 20th-Century Avant-Garde Plays ('Poetic Theatre' from France, Germany, Spain and America). Funny, Surrealistic plays from 'The Theatre of The Absurd,' many translated by Benedikt. With contact info. for obtaining play performance rights.
Prose Poems by Michael Benedikt, prose poems from Benedikt's 4th poetry book, Night Cries--also a review from The London Times Literary Supplement discussing Night Cries and prose poetry generally
Brief Prose Poems by Michael Benedikt, other poems from Night Cries--also an interview on prose poetry from The Poetry Society of America Newsletter, & a brief essay on "The Future of The American Prose Poem"