The Hours

Mark Doty

Big blocks of ice
– clear cornerstones –
chug down a turning belt

toward the blades of a wicked,
spinning fan; rotary din
of a thousand skates and then

powder flies out in a roaring
firehose spray of diamond dust,
and the film crew obscures

the well-used Manhattan snow
with a replica of snow.

*

Trailers along the edge of the Square,
arc lamps, the tangled cables
of a technical art, and our park’s

a version of itself. We walk here
daily, my old dogs and I glad
for the open rectangle of air

held in its frame of towers,
their heads held still and high
to catch the dog run’s rich,

acidic atmosphere, whitened faces
– theirs and mine – lifted toward grey
branches veining the variable sky.

Today we’re stopped at the rim:
one guy’s assigned the task
of protecting the pristine field

a woman will traverse
– after countless details are worried
into place – at a careful angle,
headed toward West Fourth.
They’re filming The Hours,
Michael’s novel, a sort of refraction

of Mrs Dalloway. Both books
transpire on a single June day;
that’s the verb; these books do

breathe an air all attention,
as if their substance
were a gaze entirely open

to experience, eager to know –
They believe the deepest pleasure
is seeing and saying how

we see, even when we’re floored
by spring’s sharp grief, or a steady
approaching wave of darkness.

In the movie version, it’s winter;
they’re aiming for a holiday release,
and so must hasten onward.

Someone calls out Background!

and hired New Yorkers begin
to pass behind the perfect field,

a little self-conscious, skaters
and shoppers too slow to convince,
so they try it again, Clarissa passing

the sandblasted arch
bound in its ring of chainlink,
monument glowing grey against the grey.

*

A little less now in the world to love.

Taxi on Bleecker, dim afternoon, after
a bright one’s passing, after the hours
in stations and trains, blur of the meadows

through dull windows, fitful sleep,
heading home, and now the darkness inside
the cab deeper than anything a winter afternoon

could tender. Nothing stays, the self
has no power over time, we’re stuck
in a clot of traffic, then this: a florist’s shop,

where something else stood yesterday,
what was it? Do things give way that fast?
Paradise Flowers, arced in gold

on the window glass, racks and rows
of blooms, and an odd openness on the sidewalk,
and – look, the telltale script of cables

inking the street, trailers near, and Martian lamps,
and a lone figure in a khaki coat poised
with a clutch of blooms while they check

her aspect through the lens: Clarissa,
buying the flowers herself.
I take it personally. As if,

no matter what, this emblem persists:
a woman went to buy flowers, years ago,
in a novel, and was entered

by the world. Then, in another novel,
her double chose blooms of her own
while the blessed indifferent life

of the street pierced her, and now
here she is, blazing in a dim trench
of February, the present an image

reduced through a lens, a smaller version
of a room in which love resided.
Though they continue, shadow and replica,

copy and replay – adapted, reduced,
reframed: beautiful versions – a paper cone of asters,
golden dog nipping at a glove – fleeting,

and no more false than they are true.