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Elaine Equi Looking Out the Window in a Novel

Looking Out the Window in a Novel

She was in a window mood that day:
to live seemed no more than to stare.
—Rainer Maria Rilke


I don’t even know my name.

I may not have one.

But I am here
and I am there,

an American poet
living in a French novel

where the rain, the traffic,
even the wind slurs and shushes

in that distinctive way I find so difficult
to mimic or comprehend,
yet it soothes me.

I told Anca, the author,
to look in the windows
of brownstones in New York.

I’ve always loved to study
the way objects are so dramatically
arranged and displayed in them.

How in one, a parrot perches on a globe;
in another, the curve of a piano gleams darkly.

Once an art dealer walking with me
recognized the blood red corner of a painting
he’d sold peeking above the shade.

Anca said: “Thank you for the windows!
They will definitely find their way into my book,
and you’ll be behind one of them
looking for a poem to emerge.”

Then she went back to Paris.


To be honest, I don’t spend much time (like none)
looking out of my own window.

What I lack is a view, a vista, and all it implies –
looking down on a bus stop, lonesome at 3 AM,
a trio of headless mannequins waiting casually
in the window of the dress shop across the street.

I think I prefer to look into rather than out of.
Perhaps that’s why I read novels.

I’ve never written a novel, but if I did I’m sure
it would begin with a woman looking out of a window
back at me.


The unknown
                            a passerby.

The windows:
                            a glass slide show
                            for studying culture.

O open or closed –
why do I keep returning?

I see you windows
as my protagonist.


Dear Anca,

It was fun to meet you and live briefly
in your novel. I can’t wait to read it

to find out what else (if anything)
happens to me – and everyone.

Here is the poem my character wrote.
It’s called “Anon” as in anonymous,

but also as in I hope I see you again soon.


The nights –

long blue dashes –

gulp the distance
between our days.

like pancakes

with light.

I walk in
what was,

is almost

turning the corner
like a page,

the page
like a corner.

We have many times
met without meeting
like this,

at some dog-eared

each in search of
the right words
for color or tremor;
stranger or friend.

Elaine Equi’s latest book is Sentences and Rain from Coffee House Press. Her other collections include Click and Clone, Ripple Effect: New and Selected Poems, and Voice-Over. She teaches at New York University and in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at The New School.
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