I ran into Henry today, he owns the
Essex Street Market building.
Smells like old cigars, matted dreads
and stale construction. A hot city day,
breathing sidewalk and tar.
Henry told me his plan to screw
the vulture capitalists
was to put a high-rise
housing on top of the market,
power it with solar panels —
“let those hotel bastards
look at us then!”
He said, “You don’t kill
the goose that laid the golden
egg cuz then you got no
He said, “I remember when
I was young
and I wanted to be rich,
so I went out
and got rich.
I remember the first time I kissed
a girl and the time after that
and the time after that and
it was all in my head,
Amin is behind the counter,
gold teeth and long curly hair, a rockstar
mustache. Latin boys walk in, Amin says
hey, Frankie, mi amigo, como estas?
Frankie says, bien, bien, turkey hero. Amin makes
it for him. Cop walks in, says Ma’assalama,
Amin says Ma’assalama. The cop asks for some
more lessons on Mohammed, Amin explains
and Habib makes all the coffees. Old black man
walks in, says, what up, homes. Amin says,
hey, what up Holmes, ham sandwich tonight?
The man says, nah, Yankees lost. I can’t eat
tonight. Amin understands. Crazy schizo named
Lucky walks in, selling a radio from 1985. Ten bucks,
works and everything, he says. Amin tells him,
no man, thanks, we got radio here in Happiness.
Patching words into sentences into stories
we used to tell to make each other mad, now laughed
away with a wave of a wand of passed time. Tour buses
travel time up the Bowery, the farmland,
sprouting roses of brushed steel
and thumping bass, following the thread of electricity,
following frequencies of New York’s disease:
nostalgia. Things are always better in a
different time before me, and things will never
be better or worse than they are now. Things, we, them,
all living in the present tense. An undercurrent
plays connect-the-dots, watching recognition
light up the footlights of our
collective memory. We hold hands with strangers,
know they save our souls now; without resumes
or reason for trusting, we do so presently, here in
this bar this club this park this sidewalk this street this
vanity. We save each other from the men who would
otherwise pimp out our farms, our Bowerys in a
heartbeat. We hold hands with the angry and the
hurt, the hopeless and the apathetic, slashing
the tires of crusaders in their multinational
man-made machines of war. We are snickering in the dark
corners of what New York used to be, still is
in our present tense: corrupt and unclean and free
from the ordinary, still in some parts.
Wait for me. I will be here now, forever, without
knowing or willing. I will stand locking hands
with strangers: I will always choose to make
the better never end.
**poet’s note: y’all must read “Forever” by Pete Hamill.
A glass of vinegar and 2 drops
with a paper funnel on top
will kill swarms
in the humid rotten.
Preferring to crawl frantic
instead of fly, blind to
the aperture of escape.
One on the edge of the cupboard
hasn’t moved in twenty minutes.
Do fruit flies nap?
Would you nap if you only
lived ten days?
I knew once I got up
to get another cigarette,
he’d jump in.
Two or three fight
on the edge of the funnel
and fall. Dead.
Drag on a cigarette
as they sink.
I have dreams later
that survivors are pissed
and swarm me to death.
You are a bass drum thundering in my
chest and it makes me want to lick your
empty coffee cup after you leave in the morning.
I want to hover under neon Bulgarian techno beats,
listen to you tell me that you missed how I
smell like, insist that my German has gotten
far worse than your English, get to miss you from
only Attorney Street to Fire Island.
I knew the moment I saw you that you would
remember for me that I make words, you play
piano, and I knew you would remember sarcasm —
old habits die hard.
There are ten people in the universe;
you and me are two of them.
A park scene in the diaspora. A guy holds his dog up to dance
for a baby, and she thinks he’s waving goodbye. A wrinkle with
gray dreads howls with laughter at all of them.
If I make myself hold the pen long enough, I will remember to write
without thinking. Memory will feed me when I am too poor to try, my love
will sit cradled in my brain, waiting to be hatched.
I moved here not to quit dreaming on rooftops but to make dreams on
pavement. To fashion a bouquet of stolen thoughts so I can sleep at
I keep holding this pen up not for genius but for piece
of mind. Look at the birds with the airlock brakes. Launching pad? I
never realized I had balance till I stood up and went on out.
Missing you. Wishing you could be the pieces of my fractured brain in
the crosswalk, but then, age and spirit aren’t the same thing; sorbet
and ice cream aren’t, either.
I don’t want love on a diamond — okay, maybe served on a silver
platter, sure — but I do want two feet someday, arms and cheeks to
They ask me why I write about New York so much. We know each other
really well, so it’s easy. NYU film students, bottled blonde, bottled
love, bottled up.
Afternoon naps aren’t nearly as satisfying as they used to be,
now that I can’t sleep at night without wondering if I’ll ever finish what I
started. You call me to complete the conversation. Start a new one.
Choosing to bake cupcakes and chasing pigeons are good
ideas. Two coffees in recycled coffee sleeves and kiss
goodbye while walking. Cooperation.
The important thing is that I made it outta there
relatively unscathed when a bike riding the wrong
way down Clinton Street carrying someone’s
pizza swerved to miss me and the girl
in the heavy coat causing the gypsy cab to first swing wide
skimming the Nova who’d suddenly decided to park
but then gypsy gunned it to make the light and slammed on
the brakes when he saw girl heavy coat my eyes’ fire
in his headlights. The Latin men on the corner
watched to see who would go down first. Me.
I lay down in the crosswalk and cried.
I want to take back everything I ever said and replace
it with words that don’t mean. That picture of my dad
and me shoulda been the picture I took of a flooded
subway station last summer, when you were just a creek
whittling your way into the canyon of me. Not
the one, certainly not the only, more like passing
sideshows in life’s circus of where there’s never
a main attraction. Now, if I were her, I’d boot
your ringmaster-ass out the door so fast,
you’d wonder who loved you more
or if anyone ever did.
I’m not her, I’m not you, I’m the trapeze girl
swimming air in a blues-spangled costume. You don’t know
me naked: the light was never shed. A candle is
not enough to see poems stripteased and my
flipped hips blurred are not my preferred likeness.
So you can take your Jersey-lined circus
and get the fuck outta Dodge,
because I quit this job and wash distraction
in an unflooded avenue — Manhattan Island.