“The Only Living Boy in New York” by Simon and Garfunkel


I don’t have great hearing, and I often get song lyrics wrong. “Time, get your train ride on Time” was how I heard the opening of “The Only Living Boy in New York.” It was after “The Boxer” on my parents’ Bridge Over Troubled Water eight-track. About Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “Casabianca,” Lucia Perillo said to me, “Now what the hell does that mean? You could do the unlock-the-poem schoolteacher trick and say it’s about a shipwreck or this morning’s breakfast cereal. But to me the poem’s meaning lies in the sound of it. What it’s about hardly matters.” Simon and Garfunkel’s song is one of those first sound-first poems for me, a misheard loop (imagine the ca-clunk repetition of an eight-track player), circular address to “time” and “weather,” that burning deck and love and ship—each of us the only living voice in a world “gone but we don’t know where.”

-Tod Marshall

fullsizerender-copy-2Tod Marshall teaches at Gonzaga University.  His most recent book of poems is Bugle, 2015 winner of the Washington State Book Award; his earlier collections are The Tangled Line (Canarium, 2009) and Dare Say (University of Georgia, 2002). From 2016-2018, he will serve as Poet Laureate of Washington State (@wapoetlaureate).

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