Bass Notes

Leopoldine Core

The beautiful, slightly

purposeful way you

moved down

Madison Avenue

Red-gold hair

growing out of the

deepest bass notes

in the moonlight you


and stood in

even at 11am

deeply female


once you said you

were also a man

named Rocky.

An orange dress flapped

around your slippers

as you scuffed up

the thin grey steps

of the Met

How intrepid this city can be.

I saw a paisley

patterned moth out on

the ledge

big as a hummingbird

but risking its veil—

stillness and feet

That’s a good omen, you said

to see a nighttime ghost

when the sun is


It was dark inside

the museum

the stone was cool

the red jewels

awake all night and day

The air is always wet

at the Met, you said

Overly dewy

Ornate metals

breathing them in

then teacups, their

excessively dignified

faces—full also of a desire

for dignity—feeling they might

lack it.

You wanted to run

from thing to thing

and later you wanted potatoes

Mashed, fried,

boiled with butter

Potato salad, even


so many different ways

that we forgot they were


Your future smile

is inscribed

now that you’re dead

Walking up steps and looking

at things

I wanted to protect you

—even now I do

All day

and all night

Guarding the thought of you

And then there’s

another one.

Leopoldine Core is the author of the poetry collection Veronica Bench and the story collection When Watched, which won a Whiting Award and was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award.
Originally published:
September 18, 2023


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