During the class I took I really got into Tracy K. Smith, and for one of our imitation assignments I chose to imitate her poem, “Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes?” section 3, from her brilliant collection Life on Mars. The first poem below will be hers, and the following will be my imitation (however after several revisions, it doesn’t resemble Smith’s poem so much). The last line in both poems is supposed to be drop lined, but I’m having trouble formatting it.
Bowie is among us. Right here
In New York City. In a baseball cap
And expensive jeans. Ducking into
A deli. Flashing all those white teeth
At the doorman on his way back up.
Or he’s hailing a taxi on Lafayette
As the sky clouds over at dusk.
He’s in no rush. Doesn’t feel
The way you’d think he feels.
Doesn’t strut or gloat. Tells jokes.
I’ve lived here all these years
And never seen him. Like not knowing
A comet from a shooting star.
But I’ll bet he burns bright,
Dragging a tail of white-hot matter
The way some of us track tissue
Back from the toilet stall. He’s got
The whole world under his foot,
And we are small alongside,
Though there are occasions
When a man his size can meet
Your eyes for just a blip of time
And send a thought like SHINE
SHINE SHINE SHINE SHINE
Straight to your mind. Bowie,
I want to believe you. Want to feel
Your will like the wind before rain.
The kind everything simply obeys,
Swept up in that hypnotic dance
As if something with the power to do so
Had looked its way and said:
-Tracy K. Smith, “Don’t You Wonder, Sometimes?”, Life on Mars
The man is a cowboy. Every day
By the same narrow street. Black
Messenger bag, black shoes, black belt,
Flashing his shiny black eyes straight
Ahead. He hides his frown in his hat
And flips the bird in his pockets at people
Sitting on benches. He never uses public
Transportation. Doesn’t like recycled air.
I said hello to him once. Near
Enough to see the darting fish
Behind his shades, we passed through
each other like soapy water through new jeans.
Bubbles stiffened the hair at his nape,
And my legs stained a soft blue, having bathed
In the sunrise on a world by Sirius. But
Adults don’t get lonely, we hold hands
Selectively, and raise our money like children,
So when he didn’t respond I wasn’t offended,
Though I flinched when he towered past me
And his back whispered SHUT UP
In a voice a whisper through space
That shook my blue legs, where I am the vacuum
and am alone in hearing him. I’ve been told
That cowboys can’t sit in front of others, trees
Unable to move because they’re caught
In a forest, always standing until I stretch
Out my fingers, a letter for every digit,
And knock them over. Maybe next time
I’ll use more words. My two hands curling,
Bending his knees like a book with six people–
You have my permission to sit.