The City Inside Her
by Sandi Leibowitz
At first it was little things,
poppy seeds she rolled on her tongue
that caught a while in her teeth,
the scent rising from the morning bakeries.
She nibbled the crystalline snowflakes kissing
the brown grass of the park,
then swallowed the park itself,
all its trees baring taut soldiers' arms,
green-patinaed generals on horseback,
fog-breathed runners, gladsome dogs.
She savored the theaters next,
their curtains of red velvet, carved buttercream frenzies,
patronesses frothed in furs,
the movie-palaces' gummy floors, groping back-row teenagers,
red-and-white-striped popcorn barrels and their spillage.
She sampled the jewellers' bon-bons,
lemony citrines, rich grape amethysts, the icy mint of aquamarines.
She crunched upon the shoe repair shops,
crisp pumps dyed for a new wedding, black business oxfords brandishing sharp taps,
sour old workboots slouching as they awaited their redemption,
chewed the dry scent of leather mixed with cigarette and male intent,
the convivial neighborhood chit-chat.
Its greed, corruption, industry and charity,
all that of the city she consumed.
She did it for love;
we all know love can be presumptuous
in its devouring.
When all had been swallowed, how she swelled
with the fullness of her love,
felt the smokestacks smolder in her lungs,
highways hum faster than caffeine-rush through her arteries,
midnight towers and necklace lights of bridges illuminate her eyes,
factories join her heart in pumping, pumping, working to ecstatic efficiency.
Oh, the satisfaction of the jazz clubs thrumming against her rib cage,
ferries barging through her ears' canals.
She was beyond complete,
the sum of her greater than any of her parts,
more gorgeous than the gardens budding in her armpits and groin.
How marvelous to know such self-joy!
For she did love herself now,
moved with the ponderous grace of the city itself,
danced for the sheer exuberance of it,
needing no music but the strings of a thousand orchestras
buoying up inside her gut, and from her diaphragm the multitudinous choirs resounding
hallelujah hallelujah hallelujah.
Sandy Leibowitz is a native New Yorker who haunts carousels, dusty antique shops and bridges. She loves idyllic countryside but is most at home in cities. Her poems and stories appear in Goblin Fruit, Mythic Delirium, Luna Station Quarterly, Strange Horizons and other magazines. One of her poems is included in Ellen Datlow's The Best Horror of the Year Volume 5. She welcomes you to visit her online at sandileibowitz.com.
Photography: The Cake Lady, by Holly Northrop.