[How to record one’s thoughts, how to live]

by Bailey Cohen-Vera

How to record one’s thoughts, how to live
Street corners seem important
I’m on one that I can’t quite identify
There are Beat poets before me who
Thought their lives interesting enough to record

I’ve been obsessed with record-keeping as of late
I try to seem interesting try to write things down sometimes
I can sometimes I can’t, how to go on living, well

It’s a nice day at least
Birds are chirping that’s nice

I awoke to birds chirping the other morning
Outside my window and
My roommate said he heard them too that makes sense

Man in a blue shirt walking towards me
Man smoking closer to me

Bicycle on the way try to be polite try to
Respect other people’s space in terms of sound

I don’t want my sound to carry over
I want to be contained
I don’t want to interfere

Unless deliberately

Flowers are growing again
A horn beeps

What’s the rush you’re not going to make this light

Anyway of course there are people all around me
Nearly all of them masked I am walking to the park
I’m on Flatbush Ave. now I’m passing the barbershop

Once one street over someone I loved told me
They loved somebody else I said that’s a shame
Among other things, how to live, walking, going to parks,
Writing things down

The recorder
Puts a kind of deliberate performance on all my actions I am performing
Specifically for the recorder

Even thinking my enjambments out loud
How much do I think in line breaks, now I’m crossing the street

A kind of line break
In itself, what lies on the other side

More sidewalk still, almost at the park
Passing the supermarket where people put bottles and cans into little holes
For money

Little coins

I want to know how this is a fair exchange
I want to know who established this exchange

Where do the bottles go
Where do the cans go
I won’t look it up
In this way I am like most people I think

Perhaps that’s why I think my thoughts are worth writing down

Passing the taco stand now I still haven’t gotten tacos there
I’d like to one day
I have cash on me
I’m not hungry though
I don’t think I could ever give up eating pork

This world asks me for so little

I’m at the park now does every poem need to have a lover
In it

I am writing in a tradition which I hold in no specific regard

I don’t think people should be allowed to own certain types of dogs
In the summer their furs are too thick

Man in shorts man jogging sunburnt triceps

Smooth triceps soft triceps

My socks are showing not my ankles

How to live
Other people
Around the music, dancing

Not well, but dancing

Too small bike
At least the seat is high enough I’ll go to the lake

I’ll stare at it awhile

Gooses on the lake-edge
One takes a sip the other stands proudly

I think I’m like most people though it’s best to acknowledge the differences
I think in fragments, in line breaks
Who said that’s where beauty is

There’s a tree that’s perfect for sitting

Does every poem need to have a lover in it

I wish I was one of those people that went to the park to exercise

They seem like they have their lives together

Goose swimming, feet going manic, invisible
Adorable little feet, invisible

Numbers spray-painted on trees four
Twenty-nine twenty-five four almost
Like a locker combination

Well now I’m outside

Now I have no longer any desire to record my thoughts

Recognizably the beat from Still D.R.E. starts playing
From a bicycle rider for some reason I’m amused

Birds fighting
Their beaks little swords
One follows the other now, then waits, then follows again

Then waits, how
To keep on living

They walk
So symmetrically

As if dancing

A fight is like a dance
It’s beautiful if you know what you’re doing

And very ugly if you don’t

I’m wearing sunglasses
They were one dollar

And seven cents after tax
I’ll take them off now the world
Its regular colors

Yellow beginning on the trees
Yellow on the still-dead reeds

How to keep on living

The breeze is quite nice
I’m alone

Confetti on the ground, reflective
I think in line breaks not punctuation
The breeze is quite nice

Blue spray-paint on another tree


I’m closer now
I can touch it

Someone reading a poem
In class in their normal voice, Robin Coste Lewis says

Read it again, like you’re reading a poem
Well now what did she mean by that

I think in my poem-voice
It’s how I keep on living

Bird flapping its wings
Two people walking together

Like birds

If I write this poem down it means I did not enjoy myself today

How to keep on living

I look at the lake
I watch the birds oh look

There’s a bench

Bailey Cohen-Vera writes. He is the organizer of the Strange Tools Writer’s Workshop and a Wiley Birkhofer Fellow in Poetry at NYU. His website is baileycohenpoetry.weebly.com.