The Roof Garden - Howard Moss


The Roof Garden

A nervous hose is dribbling on the tar

This morning on this rooftop where I’m watching you

Move among your sparse, pinchpenny flowers,

Poor metronomes of color one month long

That pull the sun’s rays in as best they can

And suck life up from one mere inch of dirt.

There’s water in the sky but it won’t come down.


Once, we counted the skyline’s water towers,

Barrels made of shingle, fat and high,

An African village suspended above

The needle hardness of New York that needs

More light than God provides to make it soft,

That needs the water in the water towers

To snake through pipe past all the elevators

To open up in bowls and baths and showers.


Soon our silence will dissolve in talk,

In talk that needs some water and some sun,

Or it will go the same way as before:

Dry repetitions of the ill we bear

Each other, the baited poles of light

Angling through the way the sun today

Fishes among the clouds.

                                                          Now you are through


Watering geraniums, and now you go

To the roof edge to survey the real estate

Of architecture air – tense forms wrought up,

Torn down, replaced, to be torn down again…

So much like us. Your head against the sky

Is topped by a tower clock, blocks away,

Whose two black hands are closing on the hour,

And I look down into the street below,

Rinsed fresh this morning by a water truck,

Down which a girl, perky in high heels,

Clops by, serenely unaware of us,

Of the cables, gas lines, telephone wires,

And water mains, writhing underfoot.

                                                          --Howard Moss