The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2019

All Issues
NOV 2019 Issue

from Mostly Clearing


what is a business day


at one in the morning

in the back of a cab

on the way

to an unfamiliar address

near Herald Square

we told ourselves

no interest

no conflict

that was a joke

at first

a thinly settled truth

to slip and fall in love

through the mountains

this beckoning passage

this gleaming lowland

we hoped to espy

it itself

we fancied

somehow fashioned

from the half light

a regnant reality

a go/no-go

a pursuit plane

as if

sending up a flare

hand to hand

in the canteen

for our part

climbing that cloud staircase

not too summery

not too much lift

not too much glare

not all that much to bear

not too easeful

not too matchy

none too soon

on the back foot no longer

even according to this

fallen world view

signing at all the

indicated places

resolutely resolving

to remain

faithful to the archive

the range officers

beckoning to us

I was

more than enough

of a trial

for the two of us

lucky for me

you were both

judge and jury

this coastal route

this embowered byway

altogether untrodden

on my way

to find you


JMW Turner

wert that thou

were breathing today

to see this morn’s dawn

over the closed up K Mart


of a morning

now that you mention it

what possibly

could fall

out of this

clear blue sky

a dagwood sandwich

a not unwelcome anvil

a bank error in your favor

a burnished apple

a long-lost friend

– almost anything!


all it should take

to die

a happy man!

there’s so much

to like

about this

where do I start

this sad sack simulacrum of a sorting regime

this is what used to be buried in the basement

this child’s portion

this sales motion

this unreserved gauge

this artful display of precedence

as if there was

all the time in the world

this rumble

of armored vehicles

maneuvering on the approaches

gathered at the waist

of the conversation

that is not to say

that we do not all

crave what we construe

our due

for our upright ambitions

a kind of starry flyway

cause enough

what we long pretended

wishfulness could win us

what we all

never quite lost

that hankering for

this fresh starter’s gun

this land of second-chances

this great room

this self guided tour

this attempt at tempering

this uncanny likeness

this declined vial

all the swooning certainty of youth

where we knew

we were always

meant to end up

where once it sprouted in all directions

as if we really

ever knew what we were about

as if you could pretend

you didn’t notice

as if being mistaken

for another poet

was so terrible

as if this

was really your fate

as if you really thought

you didn’t make a difference

don’t be afraid

to ask

for what

you’re sure

you don’t deserve


Michael Gottlieb

Michael Gottlieb is a native New Yorker and the author of twenty books, including the upcoming Mostly Clearing from Roof Books, appearing this month. Other recent titles include What We Do, a collection of essays for poets, I Had Every Intention, Dear All and Memoir and Essay, an account of the early days of the Language school. A number of his works have been adapted for the stage, including his 9/11 poem, The Dust.
The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church will mark the publication of Mostly Clearing at 8:00 PM on Wednesday, November 20 with “Is This Clear Enough?” directed by Genee Coreno ( This theater production will make use of selections from the book, applying performance practices of chance and synchronicity with pop aesthetics, mapping traces of New York City drawn from the book's own accounts, seeking to construct a contemporary dialogue around commodity and sociality, including poetic community, in our current urban landscape. Directed by Genee Coreno. Performance by Kelsey Lurie and Lilja Owsley. Video Design by Dena Kopolovich.Sound Design by Evan Cook. For more info:


The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2019

All Issues