Essex Street Market

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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
of low-income
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
more eggs.”

He said, “I remember when
I was young
and I wanted to be rich,
so I went out
and got rich.

Big fuckin’
deal.

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,
do you
understand?”

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Happiness Deli

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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.

At Clinton and Stanton, Monday morning

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I walk up Clinton Street to buy
a pack of cigarettes at four a.m. On the
corner under the streetlight are
two people encased in each other like the war
is over and the street is celebrating.
Their bikes dropped beside them,
lay abandoned for the occasion.
The scene of a crime.
I want to know.

They ran into each other after
many months of not, dropped to lock up.
They rode into each other, invited
guests of circumstance.
They rode home together, a simple
thing creates this scene.

I lower my eyes to the street.
In a pause, he says to her,
I wouldn’t do anything with you
unless it was in color,

and I wish it true.

Cupcakes

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Ticket on a windshield, Ohio on Stanton Street. My name
in the newspaper, wandering thoughts passing by like the guy
with the geri curl and his arm around his tapered-legged pants
girlfriend, now or two decades ago. Sixteen years ago,

there were riots here, carving out names scratched into
film, now ten days till my birthday, I am reminded:
I wasn’t there. Trying to keep up in green track pants I
don’t remember liking, I want to bring cupcakes to school,

except school isn’t a building anymore. A musty, sweet
nap on a couch in the back room is summer vacation, I owe
everyone everything. An ex-boyfriend skirts down Essex.
To be expected, I got banned from dating on Ludlow centuries ago.

Threading.

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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,
repeating clauses,
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.

How to kill fruit flies.

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3:15am:

A glass of vinegar and 2 drops
dishwashing soap
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?
Fucker.
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.
Stupid flies.

Why I stay.

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A sinking balloon with string tied to my wrist,
the week comes to Sunday and I am not responsible for rooftop
skyscape, with the perfect moon tugging on your striped
shirt sleeve to remind you: I am not on vacation.

Sip bad shiraz, sit on laps,
sound subversive
intrusive
when the moon and the Empire State Building take over
the conversation. I am not on vacation here,

I live this, all my shit piled up to the
bed, jeans and books and underwear and schedules
frolicking wildly. I’m not looking. My ashtrays
runneth over. I won’t disappear when the plane
takes off. No vacation here,

I don’t get on any planes, I never even take cabs anymore,
my feet are rooted to the cement garden of this city.
Citibank and AmEx send their goons; I
have to ask you to buy me a drink, you sailor,
my first trick.

My blood flows like traffic up First Avenue on days where
the Limited bus catches all the lights; it gathers at
the center like the day the lights broke at Bowery and Houston,
only one lone cop who happened not to know how to direct
traffic was there. Luckily, I am not on vacation,

I am not a tourist standing here, mouth-breathing, fishing
for clean air. Maybe I scratched the surface too hard, but
too late — now I know you play piano and go to the Sonic
Ballroom or maybe Blue Shell looking for pieces of me, and
I’m your first. I will be your last, it’s too late, the lid
is blown and the plane is taking off. But I am not on vacation,

I am looking down the hazy subway tunnel, waiting for the tracks
to glimmer, light up, tell me my train is coming. A man walks
down Houston with his boxers over his jeans, dancing to Michael
Jackson on his little radio. We dance a little together and he
makes me laugh with him. This is why I can’t leave New York yet,

why I can’t give up yet. I can’t help but think I make a
difference simply by not saying, Fuck this, I’m going to Europe.
I can’t leave them behind — who will change the lightbulbs
for my old neighbors upstate and make sure they get
a square meal? — which is why we ate spaghetti for dinner
every single night this week and splurging is buying Paul Newman
sauce instead of Prego. The current is spiraling
but I’ve still got three fingernails dug into the sink,
foamy bubbles of cynical laughter keep us all afloat here.