The Park

The Park

by John Freeman


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In The Park, his second book of poetry, John Freeman uses a park as a petri dish, turning a deep gaze on all that pass through it. In language both precise and restrained, Freeman explores the inherent contradictions that arise from a place whose purpose is derived purely from what we bring to it––a park is both natural and constructed, exclusionary and open, unfeeling and burdened with sentimentality. Pulling from both history and his own meditations in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, the seasons pass through famous parks, personal parks, parks beneath parks, and other spaces with fabricated outer limits. Throughout, Freeman wonders at how a park, being both curated and public, can be a nexus for a manifestation of great wealth inequality. How have we created these false boundaries for ourselves––with regard to physical space, but also in our minds and societies, in our personal relationships? Freeman plucks out difference in small daily dramas of people and animals only to dissolve it. Interspersed with meditations on love, beauty, and connection, The Park is a pacific and unflinching mirror cast upon a space defined by its transience.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781556595950
Publisher: Copper Canyon Press
Publication date: 05/05/2020
Pages: 82
Sales rank: 1,266,349
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

John Freeman is an American writer and literary critic. The former president of the National Book Critics Circle, Freeman is the editor of Freeman’s, a literary biannual, author of two books of nonfiction, The Tyranny of E-mail and How to Read a Novelist, and of one book of poetry, Maps. Described by Dave Eggers as “one of the preeminent book people of our time,” he has also edited two anthologies of writing on inequality, Tales of Two Cities and Tales of Two Americas. The former editor of Granta, he lives in New York, where he teaches at The New School and is Distinguished Writer-in Residence at New York University. The executive editor at LitHub, he has published poems in Zyzzyva, The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and The Nation. His work has been translated into more than twenty languages.

Read an Excerpt


I cooked pasta with chilies last night and my fingers still burn. It’s how the mind feels these days,
you say, upon arrival, and we sit with this. I
am so angry
I cannot touch you.


Backlit by the glow from a small passageway,
he kneels into the fog of yellow light,
head kissing the carpet.
I step around him,
respecting his privacy, when the mat becomes not prayer rug but builder’s tool,
a black piece of tarmac laid down before the bank so he could peer close, fix the dead motion sensor so that people with money could be seen, all doors opening for them.


The park beneath the park is open all night,
people sprawl across benches,
this way and that, one man sits straight up as if in a pew, eyes closed, bags at his feet, rocking to the rhythm of the park beneath the park.

You can stroll here,
take your coffee,
you may even on occasion feel the whisper of a breeze as we rush into the Mabillon station, the slatted windows of this park on wheels letting you know there is a world outside, a place above where on graveled quadrants we are not alone, where

a sound beneath every sound says, we are not alone,
and you can feel it,
like a humming in the blood, how when there is no hawk falling like a blade, no wolf loping into view, no marmot nosing the cracks in what we made of its pavement we are lonely and ashamed.
We are too much ourselves,

and we sit, one to a bench,
sometimes if the stink is too much, one man to a whole carriage, riding in the park beneath the park, erasing the dark hours in the white electric light.

Table of Contents

The Sacrifice 3


Modern Gods 7

Unfinished 8

Visitors 10

The Ex-Basketball Players 12

Separation 14

Open All Night 15

Almost Snowing 17

Seeing Things 18

The Death Givers 19

Translation in Paris 20

The City Without 21

In a Bucharest Journal 22

Winter Diary 23

The Politician 24

January 25

Reprieve 26


Signs 29

On Love 30

Birds 31

Weight 32

Spring 33

Teacher 34

Ordering a Café in Paris 36

Somewhere You Are Sleeping 37

Why Paris Is Not the West 38

Another Meal 39

The Gargantuan Arm 40

Halfway 42

The Hand of Fate 43


The Pool 47

Sharing 48

Erasures 49

Charity 50

The Waltz 51

Ghost 52

Crow 53

Remember, Forget 54

The Hand 55

Youth 56

Endless 57

Chosen 58

Walks in the Dark 59

A Moment in Time 60

The Missing 62

Love Letter 63


Easement 67

Autumn 69

Song of the Songs 70

On Memory & Desire 71

Names 72

The Abacus 75

Between 76

Choice 77

Hands 78

Stitch 79

The Folded Wing 80

Light 81

Dinner at the End of the World 82

Marriage 83

Paris at Night 84

Acknowledgments 87

About the Author 89

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