Posted by: Staff | 11.30.2009

THE PARTY OF KIM ADDONIZO

MATTHEW LIPPMAN

When I was in my twenties, early thirties, I would go to these parties in Brooklyn, in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, parties I did not want to go to, in lofts, with wine and gin and tonics, because I would walk in and immediately feel stupid, like the big collective breath of all the other people there had an IQ of 560 thousand.  Immediately I would go to the table with the cheese and pepperoni, and proceed to eat the hell out of the table, even the wooden legs, make it look like I had something to do.  I was never hungry or if I was hungry it was because the conversations around made me feel thin.  I was especially freaked out by the women because they all wore black dresses with long legs in them even if they did not have long legs which made them look like they had long legs.  My jeans were always wrinkled and most of the time I wore my Hush Puppies from Tom McCann because I did not know the difference.  Once I wore a rugby shirt with the big purple and white stripes.  Most of the men were tall, skinny and had hair that was jet black.  Sometimes Brian Eno came with his cassette tapes.  Sometimes the band, Portishead, in their Cadillacs.  Every time I put my plate of cheese and pepperoni down another woman came up to the table and looked over me to the guy standing near the window who looked like an owl.

 I can’t even remember how I got to these parties, I can’t even remember if I had a job or not.  Brooklyn was like that—it made everyone around me a member of some underground art gallery or rock band.  The slacks were green grass green, the shirts, plaid.  The floors were always wood and the beams in the ceiling were four by four interstates for the ants.  Once, I sat in a chair that was not shaped like chair.  It was shaped like the back of a camel and cost five thousand dollars.  But it wasn’t the chair that messed me up; it was that I could never feel my tongue.  I used to stab it with toothpicks to see if it was still in my mouth.  Even when I could feel it, it did not feel pink or rich with taste buds.  Everything was cool, everyone was easy and the whole wide world of Brooklyn made me feel stupid. 

What I know now, that I did not know then, is this:  I loved it.  I loved being invited to these parties.  I loved arriving in fear and leaving in love.  These parties emptied me out of any conception of myself that had to do with feeling wise, insightful, intelligent, witty, and, or hip.  I was none of the above and these events allowed me to shed the illusion of smarts and beauty that came with living in Brooklyn in those years.  It was this “shedding” that I loved;  it refreshed me, like a big, white bar of Ivory soap. 

This is what it is like for me to read Kin Addonizio’s poetry.    Her poems are those parties in Brooklyn that are probably still happening on rooftops and giant loft spaces.  There is magic there, in many forms, even though there is cheese and pepporoni.  Cheese and pepporoni withstanding, she writes a kind of verse that feels smooth and silky when read but has this grit that takes its time coming to fruition.  By the time it hits, you are halfway home and the ride back goes from wind in the hair to, uhoh, potholes.  But as your slip into your house, toss off the coat you’ve been wearing for a half an hour too long, it feels to you like something excellent has happened, something absolutely right.  And you are clean.

Here is a poem to get you clean.  Happy Valentines Day!

FEBRUARY 14

 This is a valentine for the surgeons
ligating the portal veins and hepatic artery,
placing vascular clamps on the vena cava
as my brother receives a new liver.

And a valentine for each nurse;
though I don’t know how many there are
leaning over him in their gauze masks,
I’m sure I have enough—as many hearts

as it takes, as much embarrassing sentiment
as anyone needs. One heart
for the sutures, one for the instruments
I don’t know the names of,

and the monitors and lights,
and the gloves slippery with his blood
as the long hours pass,
as a T-tube is placed to drain the bile.

And one heart for the donor,
who never met my brother
but who understood the body as gift
and did not want to bury or burn that gift.

For that man, I can’t imagine how
one heart could suffice. But I offer it.
While my brother lies sedated,
opened from sternum to groin,

I think of a dead man, being remembered
by others in their sorrow, and I offer him
these words of praise and gratitude,
oh beloved whom we did not know.

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Responses

  1. Wow, even your prose sounds like poetry.


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