by Mara Jebsen
In this iteration of this poem-essay on Brooklyn, Gentrification, Love, Baseball, Ghosts, and Gardens, I am heavy on instinct and making sense with the senses– in terms of my approach to the way these things connect. In another iteration I may add more of what I am slowly learning about the fascinating history of the neighborhood of Lefferts, which is in the process of changing, rapidly.
I. Scene: New café, “Tip of the Tongue”, outer outpost of whiteness, Lefferts Gardens. April.
Bakery, new folk music, wood everything—white people, white people.But the apportioning
is lovely. A partition between the space and the street,left open in clement weather.
Soft blue air blows in.
C brought me a cappuccino and gave me a kiss before catching his train.It feels like summer in England. Rainshowers, and I watch/ the umbrellas bob by like giant peonies. The gardens are all awakening. They’re staggering. They’re waking up/ I am such. . . a ninny. I can never remember the all of it—the shoots, the buds, the. . .
fronds, the whole. . .were there all along. C inherited from his mother
a love/sorrow about the bud, the perfect
miniature. “Its all there!” he keeps saying, though the crabapple in his yard
would’ve fit below my fingernail, a dot, …but already
exact. Everything it will be, it is.
Spring hurts, and everyone knows it. But it’s a white, clean hurt, the natural pain of the bud/unfolding as it should. I’m in love, too; it’s a new soft love/that hurdles in slow motion like a racehorse filmed/ leaping below my life and I feel each frame/the nose lifts, the trunk tilts, the lumbering wide flanks float…impossible, impossible
the dangling hoof, impossible…
Whenever I stop moving, I feel the air bend,
like its making room. . .for what, for what?
This was there all along, some tendency for growing
healthy and deranged. I'm an ordinary fruit.
II. But it's not all roses. Or even/crabapples. There's a lot of baseball/ too. I can pretty much keep/ my eyes from glazing over, most of the time, by noting/the weird coziness I'm afforded/by American sports. I like the men dressed like boys/who must've loved to dress/ like the men they now are. I mean a little league kid/is a perfect miniature. And I like the colors. I like/the whole day devoted/to some devotion far outside me. C tells me then/that we're around the corner from Abbot's field. Or what/used to be Abbot's field. In another era, we'd have heard/the announcers crackling with thier professional hysteria/telling the score as we sat in the back yard. We'd have seen/children probably, all over the streets, in a time before….
Where am I getting/this stock footage from? And what can I mean, in an another era, “we”?
We'd have been immigrants, says C/rolling with it. We'd have been Jewish. This makes
a particle of sense, because C is half-Jewish/ but it basically doesn't make sense. Perhaps “we”
would've lived here in the early 80's, and been…not babies, but instead
a West Indian family, moved in around the time that the economy tanked and..
I don't know, who would we be, if we weren't us?
III. I'll quit dreaming for a second. Lefferts Gardens/just got written up in the Times. Its a new hot neighborhood.They have the hot yoga. Nevermind Abbot's field/is filled up with Abbot's projects. They have that tall, red/dreary blankness. Like angry french fries. Its still a neighborhood of families/even if I rarely see kids in the street. On the way to the train, I sometimes catch/within a storefront/ a twirling of small girls/ in rose leotards, and pearl-pink tights/practicing a dance I can never name. For one second, there's a west african/lilt in the elbow, then it turns to jazz-hands, a smattering of ballet/and suddenly, a do-si-do. I wish/most of the time/ that I could hear the music.
says the lady who represents the design of the Highline, “is just a pejorative term
for necessary growth.”
This sounds like the reasonable sort of thing
a shark would say. Rebecca Solnit
says that gentrification is just the visible fin
of a big damn shark, which is the mass
of moving money. C and I liked our old neighborhood,
where we each lived for 11 years, separately,
three blocks from one another and we never once
met—that we remember. In my early 20’s I probably served him coffee/ in a shop that’s long gone, Meanwhile, Jay-Z/who'd grown up in the old Brooklyn, left, made it, came back/ and with the help/ of international dought/brought the Barclay's center. The stadium is supposedly testament/to a Brooklyn boy,making good. But then our rents rocketed up. What they used to call “Flatbush” began to look appealing.
V. The gardens in Flatbush seem exceptionally rich.
The realtor, back in March, when we saw the place empty,
and echoing with the clear promise of fresh-painted house,
that at once promises all the good living you might do in it,
told us a lengthy smattering of things/ about Lefferts. That the Lefferts'
had plantations, that the land was thick with pigs, that
it had all been farm once/ she went on rather long/
my attention wandered off/ until she mentioned Gloria.
Gloria the last tenant, had gotten sick too young, and
died all alone and failed to pay her rent. The realtor
seemed annoyed. But Gloria didn't die/ she said hurriedly/in this actual house,
and she cast me a searching glance. I think she pegged me
for the imaginitive type. And she was right.
VI. That night I tried not/ to dream of Gloria/I practically held my head in my hands/and tried/ to clip off/ my thoughts at thier stems/ Soon my happiness, and the silly dances we did in the rooms/ and the paintings on the walls and the laughing in the kitchen/seemed to override her. But I had not/ counted on the garden.
VII. Gloria died and left this garden, which is an orchestra/
–the shoots came first. C thought they were tulips,
I though they were daffodils. They were both, and the heads
of narcissus came later, at around the time
the wisteria buds got thick and purple-green
like asparagus tips, around the time
the grass first needed mowing, and some indescribably odd,
red things started poking up/ out of the dirt. We identified
buds of upcoming hydrangea, peony, and thickets
and thickets of roses.Beds of mint, and hints that the woman
had loved shades of purple. The apartment, I should mention,
is a place I visit; the place is a rental. C's from California,
and I didn't entirely/ grow up in America. I do not know where
Gloria hailed from.We can't belong. But the little plot, with its rich/ sweet-dirt
smell, casts a certain, familiar incantation. The way that it surprises
and responds, how it ripens and lets die
each thing planted in it, is heady. . .
VIII. A garden. It makes you feel you own where you are.A garden/is a spell, telling you your tenancy/is more temporary/more forever, than your body/can understand. Each bud, each furled leaf, each white fruit timed/to trumpet its little life/in a staggered design/ Every morning, a perfect/ miniature of what/the sun does/with its endless blazing.