Griffin Hansbury holds a master’s degree from the Creative Writing Program at New York University. He is the recipient of an artist’s fellowship from the New York Foundation of the Arts and was a semi-finalist for the "Discovery"/The Nation prize in poetry. He has also been awarded the Glascock Intercollegiate Poetry Prize and has twice received awards from the Academy of American Poets. He is the author of Day for Night, a collection of poems published by Painted Leaf Press.

Day for Night
An essay by the poet

Four Poems by Griffin Hansbury

On Looking into the Ladies’ Room

In the Guggenheim Museum SoHo,
when the door to the Ladies’ Room opens:
Silver light for a moment, a mirror,
the few faces of women looking in,
brushing their hair, reapplying
lipstick, wiping their noses
suddenly here in this corridor between
the earthly curve of Midnight Sun
and dull unsmiling Mao Zedong
Reporting on the Rectification in Yan’an,
There is nothing beautiful
about the men’s room (think of
the girls in high school, their cool clouds
of Aqua Net, green smoke of menthol
cigarettes, snap of spearmint gum).
No matter what we do,
there always will be worlds
we cannot enter.
Think of all those distant temples,
galaxies, centuries we’ll never step into.
There is a certain sadness in every shift
from one thing to another. So much
is lost here and there, along the way--oh,
it’s worth it, it’s worth it, I agree, but--
(if I could just be everywhere at once!
Then I could be truly happy).
There is not time enough to be
all things. So brief, these bodies we’re given.
A door opens, a few inches, silver light
spills into the corridor. There, we see Heaven--
what we were, what we are not now (a door
closes), what we were never meant to be.

Blue Star Fisherman

To be simple
is something I, for one, romanticize
probably all out of proportion.
when the fisherman,
with his wife, steps into the art gallery
and stands beside a painting of him-
self (in rubber boots and gloves,
a basket of flounder swinging up
from his boat, the Blue Star),
he is more true than the painting,
more true than the painter.
He is the thing itself.
is not a symbol,
does not equal
Christ or Life or History,
but just
fish. It simply is
what it is.
The same goes for rubber boots,
rubber gloves.
The same goes for
If we are larger than our particulars,
let the painters and the poets
go on asking those unanswerables.
Let the fishermen go on
pulling up great netfuls of flounder,
let them go on shucking scallops;
let the gulls forever follow trawlers
into the harbor at end of day;
and, at end of day,
let me be a little bit simpler
than I was
when the day began. Let me
unleash myself from meaning,
let me not be a poet, God,
just once,
let me be a fisherman.

Hymn to East River
Sung While Looking at O’Keeffe’s East River from the Shelton

Everyone’s wild about the Hudson,
the "lordly Hudson;" there are hymns,
poems, numerous portraits
of that lumbrous ancient length--
but where are the prayers
to East River? It’s blacker, yes,
more poisonous
than its ever-famous other half
which, if it were called the West River,
might not be so famous.

Bill won’t paint it.
He prefers the west with its sunsets.
"I’m a sunset man," he says,
"I’m a cloud man." I tell him,
You should see how the sun
comes up in the East
over the high copper steeples
of Saint Stanislaus, orange light
of October humming brick and stone.
"I don’t do the dawn," he says.

The East River is all about the dawn--
Apollo with his golden disk
and chariot roaring across the heavens,
over the East River, lordly too,
the East River filled with tugs
and the fountainous fire-boats
breathing their silvery arcs
of water to the water.

Across the way is Pepsi-Cola,
red and thunderous in antique neon;
Domino Sugar, heaped in sweetness;
the many many steeples of Brooklyn
(city of steeples);
cranes and derricks and loaders
of Brooklyn; and, oh yes, all
those marvelous bridges:
Queensborough, Williamsburg, Manhattan,
and, best of all and most beautiful,
Brooklyn Bridge.

Who needs George Washington
humped and steely over Hudson
when we have that cathedral
of igneous, rising in cabled yearning
toward the gods on their mountaintop,
where they get down on their immortal
hands and knees just for a closer look
at our blessed Brooklyn Bridge.

And, here, O’Keeffe
has rendered East River--
blue, on fire with the fire-
engine red of smoky dawn,
the smokestacks of Brooklyn
steaming, side-winding to the sky.
And, there, the sun, spotted
and spindled in its rays,
comes galloping forth to light
the shadowy East Side
of walk-ups under stilted watertowers.

And there I am, awake,
someplace along that river’s edge,
warming to the dawn. This morning,
my curtains were soft-flooded
with a mellow light, orange
as a pumpkin, bright
as fresh paint on wet canvas,
hollow-mouthing hymns to my river,
singing the shape of "O"
for orange, for the round rising ball
of the sun, and oh, oh...East River.

Dear Miss Empire State

From this vantage point, standing outside
St. Mark’s Books at Third
and Stuyvesant, the Empire State
is dwarfed by the pudgy truculent tower
of Consolidated Edison,
clocking in at 4:09 p.m.,
barrel-chested, crowding the skyline,
all aflush with November’s falling light.

Little Empire State, once the tallest
girl in school, barely reaches over--
on tiptoes even!--the low bricks
of this Lower East Side. Baby
of a building (optical illusion
of shortness), still, she shines.
Her western half hums with another
day’s end, and what a lovely day it was.

From here, only her shoulders showing,
stony, flecked with windowpanes, a touch
of chrome; and then the glinting
mooring mast once meant for zeppelins,
the World of Tomorrow, winged
and crowned round with rosiness now,
not cold, not distant. Her slender needle
tipping sky; from here, just touching

the clock-top of Con-Ed, not even
reaching to where the pink rib-
cage of column begins. Dear
Miss Empire, we still love you
in your sudden smallness. More convenient
this way, a better fit you’ll make
in my unlong arms (size 31). Now,
I won’t need to buy a bigger bed.