It’s late August in the city: sweet summer’s
coming to a close. But where are you?
The democratic debates have started,
but I’m not watching. Most of the people
I know are out of town, on vacation somewhere.
I ride the subway lines with tourists, mostly
European. They look like they’ve seen
Medusa’s eyes, petrified, stunned, symbolized.
Welcome to New York, New York.
My friends are away. Down the shore,
at the beach. In Vienna. One is pretending
to be away. Others are leaving, moving
to LA. It must be that time of year, or time
of life when one decides to go. Melville
in “Bartleby the Scrivener” describes Wall
Street during off-hours as a deserted Petra.
I find myself wandering in the ruins. On
Mulberry. On a Saturday afternoon. I drink
Lillet and Campari at 4pm. There’s a black
and white photograph of Jimi Hendrix
on the wall. The name of the café translates
to Gypsy. The bartender speaks Spanish
to those who order in Spanish. I pick up that
tomorrow there might be a heatwave. What begins
as radiating warmth now turns into a red, permanent
oppression. Unfortunately that reminds me of you.


This morning, I heard a siren,
as I passed an isolated cemetery along

the Long Island Expressway: hundreds
of tombstones, forming a massive

sea of white marble. An ambulance
shot past, straight ahead, after chasing

my tail for two long avenues. Before
lunch, crossing the street on Lafayette,

I had to step aside; another siren was
wailing, crashing into the black pavement.

Violent bells fall in showers.
In the afternoon, the fire alarm went off

in abrupt, even intervals, in a café
where I was drinking coffee. I was reading

The Ethics of Ambiguity. Only a few people
stood up. Some stared when a firefighter appeared

from out of the light. On my way
to Howard Beach, another fire truck stopped

traffic—a premonition of emergency,
the escalating flames surrounding me and you.

Indian Summer

It’s mid-October and 70 degrees
in the afternoon. It’s like I’m
in Southern California heading West
to the beach. I order a steak for lunch,
medium-rare, and green beans, strike
up a conversation with the woman
sitting next to me at the bar: “Do I
know you from somewhere?” She cuts
into a poached egg, placed in the center
of her plate. The yellow yolk spills out
onto the white surface. “Must have
a doppelgänger in NY. I’m in town
for 24 hours, visiting from Toronto.
I’m going to hop on the treadmill
before my meeting later and will have
steak too.” I explain that I’m working
for the next 5 hours, need to sustain myself
for what’s coming. Anything is possible,
everyone dreams in this city. From 14th St.
to East 72nd, from coast to coast,
from nine to nine, from morning to night,
from moon to moon. It’s mid-October,
nearly 70 degrees outside. I’m looking
at the sun from all angles: that’s
when I realize I’m in love with you.


Sometimes the night seems like day, and day like night. There aren’t any boundaries in the hours, but when the sun sets around 7pm in the fall, another day opens and begins. The vast emptiness of the sky envelops every structure and meets the East River. At 8pm, I look into the open windows of bars and restaurants on Avenue B, nod to a man drinking beer, observing passing pedestrians: we each play a part in autonomous movement and the spectacle unfolding before our eyes. The workday is winding down: images of Alphabet City in the 80’s flash in my mind, where every Avenue might have seemed like one of the surrounding rivers of Hades, leading to the furthest margins of forgetfulness and FDR. Underground, on the F, the dim light flickers, as the train comes to a stop, and illuminates the presence of new MTA signs plastered onto the walls: Together, we can make a better world. Don’t Snitch. Swipe. A stickman walks between subway cars and collapses, his silhouette crossed out. A man across from me is dozing off from weariness, repulsion or heroin. We’re going, I think, to another unknown layer, a pile of corpses, wash away the heat because we remain unbaptized in the dark. When the lights switch off completely, we keep on moving and brace the speed, the stillness of the air. I know this is the way back home.

Natural Mystic

Engines on the freeway scorch my skin
and vibrate in my ears. The air settles
with the descent of the sun. I’m heading
West to the beach: the temperature is 10 degrees
cooler. But people there have a certain look:
wrinkles generate spirals on the surface.
The sand creates layers of impurities.
You might be wondering how I got back home
after the night I saw you. Looking in the mirror,
I wonder why a bottle of rosé is open, half
empty on the living room table. Why does the
house already smell like smoke, the metal
blinds closed? On the day I’m flying out,
I wake up and learn my flight is cancelled.
I’ll spend anything for a new ticket
because I have to get back, get back to NY.
I have lunch at a restaurant called La Chamade
and beat the afternoon rush before hopping
into a cab that took me to John Wayne airport.
On the plane, I send too many messages without
a destination because I know that it’s over.
Everything is over. On my way back
to my apartment, the immensity of the city
liberates loss and melancholy, immerses
me in deep anonymity. The following
evening, in a Chinatown studio, Kyle
from LA, is teaching Kapalabhati.
She tells us to provide a frame or windows
for our perspectives, place boundaries
between two surfaces and build new angles.
The music takes me back to the beginning.
The energy of the room is filled with the
light of the sunset and waves of Southern CA.


Image credit:Dave

Irene Han is an academic and also writes poetry. She has interests in psychoanalysis, cinema, and various landscapes, particularly the beach. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.