Portrait by Adrian Moens
August 2nd, 2019
It's Saturday: are you relaxing, re-charging, cleaning, re-organizing, decluttering your place? Choosing a room, or a corner of a room, or a closet, and going at it with the Marie Kondo method: "Does this bring you joy? Does this bring you joy? Does it?"
On a cool and quiet Sunday afternoon in late November, 2017, Adrian Moens and I sat down with Mervyn Taylor at his place on Ocean Avenue that looks out on Prospect Park, where he has lived since 1981. For Issue No. 2 - Autumn 2017, we included his poem, "Things I Can't Throw Away," which is a part of his latest collection of poems, Voices Carry (2017).
The piece plays with the question of joy, illuminating the fact that although certain items can go months without eliciting any joy from their owners, often, and almost inevitably, their surge of joy-eliciting emotions pours forth once we try to throw these items away.
You can read our full interview with Taylor in Issue No. 2 - Autumn 2017, along with the companion poem that we published alongside "Things I Can't Throw Away," "Nostrand Avenue," which carries a force of its own, and describes the physical and emotional landscape of one of the borough's longest avenues, and begins: "Nostrand runs all the way from one / end of Brooklyn to the other, where / going with a girl into the Windjammer, / my friend met his wife coming out." Enjoy.
THINGS I CAN’T THROW AWAY
Like the garlanded Buddha
a gift from a fortune-telling mom
who came to class on parents' night.
The key my daughter made
with my initials her first stay
at sleepaway camp.
The red shoes with elastic across
the instep that pained like the dickens
after a few hours' wearing.
A diseased plant that refused to die,
or get well. It sits in a quarantined
corner of the kitchen.
Cards from a mysterious 'Fifi,'
signed with puckered lips, whose
husband has since passed away.
A Jet centerfold, featuring
an old girlfriend on board a yacht,
somewhere in the Bahamas. And
a simultaneous painting, ripped
across a could moon, done by
four stoned artists around a table.
Twice a year, I declare these things
dead, junk, clutter. I line them up
by the door. Then they beg, and I
put them back, the house squaring
itself and sighing, my new loves
finding space among the old.