Alex Dimitrov

When I was younger
all I wanted was to be taken seriously.
A serious poet! Why not.
Now I realize being taken seriously
is as arbitrary as how long you live.
I would gladly trade wisdom for youth.
Or beauty. Or the way I stood
in the corner at parties,
always complaining how boring
they were, how we should have gone
somewhere else or maybe
shouldn’t have gone out at all.

1 thought on “Alex Dimitrov

  1. shinichi Post author

    “Poem Written in a Cab”

    by Alex Dimitrov

    https://www.pw.org/content/poem_written_in_a_cab_by_alex_dimitrov

    Alex Dimitrov’s third book, Love and Other Poems, is full of praise for the world we live in. Taking time as an overarching structure―specifically, the twelve months of the year―Dimitrov elevates the everyday, and speaks directly to the reader as if the poem were a phone call or a text message. From the personal to the cosmos, the moon to New York City, the speaker is convinced that love is “our best invention.” Dimitrov doesn’t resist joy, even in despair. These poems are curious about who we are as people and shamelessly interested in hope.

    **

    To the people
    reading this poem, hello.
    I want you to know
    nothing bad will happen
    as long as you’re here.
    Every line you see
    was written in a cab.
    I’m on the FDR
    in the middle of winter
    and the sky is suddenly bluer
    than Sundays in June.
    There’s no reason for it.
    No real science
    to what will happen when
    I get off at Chambers
    and Broadway, wearing
    gold and black sneakers
    on my way to meet
    a friend who is sad.
    To my sad friends, hello.
    For you I will be
    a version of myself
    I hardly remember.
    I will be a lake
    at the top of morning
    some late afternoon into night.
    And if you look away from
    this page, to your right
    there’s the world.
    I am only trying to describe it.
    I will likely disappoint you
    like a long-awaited date
    or like last call at a bar.
    The people on Water Street
    are leaving work now.
    Walking to shops
    and to restaurants
    or of course to the water—
    Manhattan, you are
    my favorite island by far.
    And I wouldn’t be a poet
    if I didn’t tell you
    about the bridges,
    there are over two thousand here—
    Brooklyn, Verrazzano,
    George Washington—
    partial hyperbole, partial admission:
    I live here for the bridges at night.
    It’s been so long
    since I’ve taken a vacation
    and some days I think,
    how is that even possible,
    how is this even my life?
    I thought I’d be happier
    and more handsome,
    certainly better loved
    and more stable
    this late in the day.
    But the secret with me
    (as I’m sure with you too)
    is that everyone thinks
    I am fine. Doing great!
    What’s the point
    of saying otherwise
    really. It’s so gauche
    and betrays a self-pity
    that probably means
    you aren’t getting laid.
    The mood in Union Square
    reminds me of a feeling
    I once felt in 1995.
    The park looks perfect
    and deceptively true.
    A gorgeous blond
    is smoking a joint
    and reading, not
    waiting for anyone
    and refusing to look up.
    Maybe he will
    but it just doesn’t
    seem like today
    is the day to get
    his attention.
    He’s already turning
    the page and so focused,
    whatever he’s reading
    it’s all that he is.
    And just so you know
    we’re in a different cab now,
    in another month
    with better weather—
    goodbye to the past!
    It’s important
    to look at something
    you can’t have
    at least once a day.
    Like the blond
    a few lines up.
    Perhaps you should
    even touch it
    or put it in your mouth.
    When people kiss in public
    it’s a sign you’re not alone.
    Even if you’re not the one
    being kissed, there’s something
    obviously human about it.
    And to be obvious is boring
    except for real sentiment
    or standing naked
    in front of someone.
    We’re all either kissing
    or pissing on each other.
    Everything in between
    is too safe to comment on
    and not poetry in the least.
    Once I was 19
    and now I’m 33.

    I used to prefer autumn
    but spring has made me an adult.
    The silence on Charles Street
    is charming, even though it’s
    nothing like the silence I know,
    which can’t be compared to
    a street or anything modern
    despite this being
    a New York poem.
    Still, I’m going to try
    because what else is there to do
    other than work
    and down gin and tonics.
    There’s a minute
    right before the cab
    drops me off
    when I think—don’t stop,
    take me anywhere else.
    Just keep driving!
    I have it all wrong.
    I have it all wrong
    but I’m somehow alive.
    Some things never change
    and why would you want them to.
    Like Katz’s deli,
    where I still haven’t eaten
    but take comfort
    in knowing it’s there.
    Or the Flatiron building
    where I’ve been once or twice,
    and where my friend
    Dorothea and I took photos
    in an elevator and talked about
    why it’s important
    to keep going no matter what.
    Poets are doing this constantly
    and it’s one way of showing people
    possibility is real and invented.
    It has to come from the self!
    It doesn’t just show up one day.
    You have to leave your house
    to make eyes with someone
    over a kale salad. Sometimes
    you have to dye your hair blond
    to remember you’re truly a brunette.
    Whenever I see people
    crying on First Avenue
    I think of the times
    I’ve cried on First Avenue—
    which is, by all standards,
    a great avenue to cry on.
    Like Janis Joplin’s
    “Get It While You Can”
    is a great song and one
    that’s extended my life
    on many occasions.
    Not scientifically
    but undeniably spiritually.
    And stay with me now
    as this is the part of the poem
    where I’m trying to tell you
    life is better than death
    and more ridiculous too.
    This is hard to know
    given the day or the season,
    but I have to trust myself
    since I’m likely
    the most neurotic poet
    in the room, and maybe someone
    you’ll know in another life
    when we come back as dogs.
    The thing is, the world
    will continue without us
    just as this poem will continue
    even if there’s no one
    to read what it says.
    Please keep reading.
    I care so much that you do.
    I want to be in rooms
    and cabs together,
    listening to everything
    that’s ever happened to us
    until some point in the story
    when all the details
    are out of the way
    and there’s nothing left to say
    except the simplest things.
    I don’t know what they are
    but on Bleecker Street
    at half past noon on a Wednesday
    two boys are pointing
    at a billboard
    or studying the sky.
    Whatever they’re thinking of,
    it’s not about the end of the world.
    One of them is wearing
    an orange hat and the other
    has a button on his backpack
    that says “M E O W.”
    Exactly! Only yesterday
    I spoke to everyone like a cat.
    Which is to say, I was mysterious
    and pleasing to myself.
    I stopped confusing
    my body for a weapon
    but my body has never
    impressed me.
    I’m Slavic, after all.
    I don’t believe in
    self-love, which is
    a kind of American sadness
    that often feels
    desperate and dull.
    It’s powerful to feel
    you can change
    even small things,
    even things that don’t
    seem to matter at all.
    Like the arch of your eyebrows
    or the color of your lips
    (both of which,
    now that I think of it,
    are very important and real).
    Like being at a party
    and for less than a second
    feeling like someone entirely new.
    I have never wanted to be myself.
    What a ludicrous obligation!
    Having a fantasy
    is the least sad thing there is
    and the only thing
    that gets me out of bed.
    Which makes me think
    I should sit down
    and write a list
    of my fantasies
    or at least the things
    I love about the world.
    Maybe the list will be so long
    I’ll call it “Love”
    and turn it into a book,
    allowing me to feel
    justified in not taking more cabs
    as a way to finish this poem.
    In any case, whenever
    I’m in California
    I want to be in New York.
    And whenever
    I’m in New York
    I’d rather be in London
    because the rain is like light there,
    it has this way of calming me down.
    It’s 9:14 pm
    and the cab I’m in now
    is on West 8th Street
    almost at the Marlton Hotel
    where I’m going on a date.
    I have no choice but to follow
    my idea of romance,
    which as it turns out
    means checking my hair
    on my phone, like a mirror,
    and after too many drinks
    telling a man that my favorite word
    is bijou—French for jewel.
    Haven’t I suffered enough
    terrible dates! Couldn’t this
    be the one that changes
    my life and comes with
    a house in the Hamptons.
    I can never fall asleep
    with a stranger in bed
    unless it’s their own bed
    and feels like the aisle seat
    on a flight to Europe.
    Which is to say—
    there’s an escape!
    Or at least a way
    to attend to your needs.
    There’s a freedom in hotel bars
    when telling the bartender a secret
    or switching up your drink
    can remind you life isn’t over.
    That maybe it’s just stalled for a while.
    Usually my drink is champagne
    or prosecco. Red wine
    with my friend Will,
    Diet Coke with Melissa,
    and anything anywhere
    with my longest friend
    Rachel, who everyone knows
    wears all black. Marya
    does this lovely thing
    where she asks for a glass of seltzer
    and pours half of it in her rosé.
    I really think she’s invented
    something necessary,
    she’s a Pisces after all.
    And Deborah is classic.
    I find her commitment
    to cocktails an admirable choice.
    I can never remember
    which one exactly
    because I’m always looking
    at her hair, which has never
    looked bad in the ten years
    I’ve known her, and that’s glamour.
    If I had to define glamour
    that’s what I’d say it is.
    Now there’s no smooth way
    to make this transition
    but I’m in another cab again,
    weeks later, trying to remember
    who that guy from the date even was,
    or why I said I’d text but never did,
    as it usually happens with me.
    I’m very close to taking out a loan
    because of these cab rides.
    If any patrons or arts organizations
    are reading this, feel free
    to send me a check or give me a call.
    My number is 248 760 3425.
    I think one thing
    people misunderstand about me
    is how ironic I am
    in almost every aspect of life.
    I can barely put on pants
    to smoke a cigarette
    but I’m absolutely dedicated
    to writing a good sentence.
    I wonder what my mother is doing
    at exactly this moment.
    I wonder if the L train
    has ever taken anyone
    where they needed to go.
    When I was younger
    all I wanted was to be taken seriously.
    A serious poet! Why not.
    Now I realize being taken seriously
    is as arbitrary as how long you live.
    I would gladly trade wisdom for youth.
    Or beauty. Or the way I stood
    in the corner at parties,
    always complaining how boring
    they were, how we should have gone
    somewhere else or maybe
    shouldn’t have gone out at all.

    Please go to parties, everyone.
    Even if it’s just to see
    people you dread
    drinking very warm beer.
    Sometimes there’s justice
    in the world! And sometimes
    you end up being
    that dreadful person
    drinking warm beer
    and hating yourself.
    I can’t believe my fare is
    already 17 dollars.
    We’re stuck in traffic
    on 28th and 2nd
    and I’m going to be late
    but making it across town
    with feeling, no less!
    My driver just told me
    he’s Russian and I said
    “oh great, I’m Bulgarian,
    where in Russia exactly?”
    He found this absurd
    because he laughed
    and said “Moscow,”
    and now he’s asking me
    when it was that I came to America
    and I’m telling him
    in this roundabout way
    how I was six and how
    it was very hard on my parents
    because we were poor
    and I was the only one
    who spoke English.
    But I’ll leave that
    for later. Or never.
    I’ll leave you with a few
    thoughts on the imagination
    because the imagination
    is a wild thought
    and more honest
    than biography.
    What’s happened to us
    is unimportant.
    Terrible things
    happen to people
    all the time.
    It’s about the day
    and more than the day.
    It’s everything between me
    and my cab driver from Moscow,
    getting me to my meeting
    without a hint of panic or luck.
    “How long have you
    lived here,” I ask
    and he says thirty years
    which is crazy to me.
    “Only twelve,” I tell him.
    But I actually love this so much
    because for a second I’m young
    in this cab, or at least
    someone younger.
    There’s a loud bang
    on Madison and I remember
    that tomorrow’s my birthday.
    Oh god. Once again.
    November 30, 1984.
    It’s been a while
    and it’s been a lot.
    It’s been romantic
    but I definitely want more.
    I have no plans
    yet can easily make them.
    There’s rarely enough money
    but surely it’s possible
    to walk down the street
    and have coffee alone.
    I put in my headphones
    and listen to Nico’s
    “These Days”
    before my meeting.
    It’s such a good song,
    I can’t believe that it’s real.
    So good in fact,
    that for however long
    I forget about everything.
    New York is New York.
    My life is decidedly mine.
    Then I start worrying I haven’t
    worn enough sunscreen
    and will someday die of
    cancer. I start worrying
    I won’t die of cancer
    but be forgotten and old.
    I’m so dramatic.
    I’m not even a poet.
    I’m really an actor.
    And almost at 34 now,
    yes, I do think
    I look great for my age.
    I ate an egg and an orange
    for breakfast. My beard
    is quite long and still
    very well groomed.
    It’s incredible really,
    even to me, who rarely
    feels accomplished
    or takes compliments,
    that anyone can make it this far.

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