How quickly the old sadness comes back. You strewn on a chair eating lunch alone, fat meatball parm slagged in front of you, book & notebook replaced by a phone. One other couple in the restaurant, fanny-packed tourists pestering the waitress about biking the Brooklyn Bridge, No, but, what we mean is, Can we bike in this city without a helmet? Nothing stirring but a vague desire to pluck one of Citibank’s new blue rental bikes off the mechanized rack outside and ride the Bridge yourself, looking for some healing transport, some speed back to a wider, lighter selfhood, no cynicism about the Citibike program, no regarding the rack an intrusion into “your” neighborhood, no judging the tourists stupid, needing to have their unhelmeted heads bashed in by the bikes, but believing only in the blue slicing through the sunlit crowds congregating in the sky, a soloist’s note separating the rest, launching ahead stupidly unprotected, capable of such huge, stupid questions that return it, in the end, to this table unfed, stumped in solitude, so why bother? You are already there, here. And in truth you didn’t think of biking across the Bridge, only added that thought as you set yourself to thinking seriously about your sadness. Every time the waitress comes to ask, Are you okay, your face is full of parm, stuffed goon, and you think she must be a bored god just fucking with you on a random afternoon, Beckett himself couldn’t script her timing any better, the whole room evacuated of even the tourists now, just you, your sandwich and your phone and the waitress materializing from the wings to iron you over in spotlight, just as soon withdrawing as you nod, trying to eke out a yes, the chorus of chairs around you silent, the windows, the bikes, the city. Your face is full of pain you chew and swallow so genteelly in napkined-over bites, steering helmeted down this familiar back alley, gripping the handlebars of sandwich and phone, none the wiser, all too imperious, thinking somehow you can get away with this, clenching and squinting. *
Jason Koo is Founder and Executive Director of Brooklyn Poets. He is the author of America’s Favorite Poem (C&R Press, forthcoming 2014) and Man on Extremely Small Island (C&R Press, 2009), winner of the De Novo Poetry Prize and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop Members’ Choice Award for the best Asian American book of 2009. He earned his BA in English from Yale, his MFA in creative writing from the University of Houston and his PhD in English and creative writing from the University of Missouri-Columbia. The winner of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Vermont Studio Center and the New York State Writers Institute, he has published his poetry and prose in numerous journals, including The Yale Review, North American Review and The Missouri Review. Formerly director of the graduate program in English at Lehman College of the City University of New York, he is an Assistant Professor of English at Quinnipiac University and lives in Brooklyn.