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Geoffrey Brock, the 2013 Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize winner reads with prize judge, Heather McHugh. This annual reading celebrates a poet who has published no more than one previous book of verse. Pairing Brock’s bold new voice with McHugh’s acclaimed poetic perspective, tonight’s reading brings together two great writers with the intent to, in McHugh’s own words, “follow every surge of language, every scrap and flotsam.”

Bryant Park at Dusk: September 2010

Floodlights have come on behind and above
            Where I sit in my public chair.
The lawn that had gradually darkened has brightened.
            The library windows stare.

I’m alone in a crowd—e pluribus plures.
             I’m far from a family I miss.
I’d almost say I’m lonely, but lonely
             Is worse, I recall, than this.

Loneliness is a genuine poverty.
             I’m like a man who is flush
But forgot his wallet on the nightstand
            When he left for work in a rush,

And now must go without food and coffee
            For a few hours more than he’d wish.
That’s all. He still has a wallet. It’s bulging.
            It floats through his brain like a fish…

Money for love: a terrible simile,
             But maybe it’s fitting here,
A couple of blocks from Madison Avenue
             Where commodities are dear,

Where all around me, rich skyscrapers
             Woo the impoverished sky,
Having sent on their way the spent commuters
             Who stream, uncertain, by,

And as for this whole splurge of a city,
              Isn’t money at its heart?
But I’m blathering now. Forgetting my subject.
              What I meant to say at the start

Is that I noticed a woman reading
              In a chair not far from mine.
Silver-haired, calm, she stirred a hunger
              Hard for me to define,

Perhaps because she doesn’t seem lonely.
              And what I loved was this:
The way, when dusk had darkened her pages,
             As if expecting a kiss,

She closed her eyes and threw her head back,
             Book open on her lap.
Perhaps she was thinking about her story,
             Or the fall air, or a nap.

I thought she’d leave me then for pastimes
              More suited to the dark.
But she is on intimate terms, it seems,
              With the rhythms of Bryant Park,

For that’s when the floodlights came on, slowly,
              Somewhere far above my need,
And the grass grew green again, and the woman
              Reopened her eyes to read.

From Voices Bright Flags copyright 2014  by Geoffrey Brock, published by The Waywiser Press. Used with permission.