Bare walls and rolling down hills, climbing
back to the top for a tumble. Holding 4th of July sparklers,
ghosts in the goblin. A picture of tension I never
had is recognized in pumpkins of memories. My mother holds
her breath, my father exhales too loudly.
These are her people.
There are valves that release
and close off blood that ties us together in times of
inconvenience, insecurity, and unreason. I am inside the currents
of her joy and surrender. Her desperate need to
empower me shines on the surface.
He mows the lawn to break away fallen leaves, to leave the
women to their kitchen talk. He is outnumbered in his
old age. A woman is missing, I am standing next to her footprints
in the home she never abandoned. We sneak cigarettes in the
carport. She hands me the lighter, asks me to ash
like a lady, we laugh. I wish her ghosts away from her
neverhome, haunted with the joy and unreason of
her people, my people.
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.
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.
needling like the sting in my face
when the frisbee hit it on the Great Lawn,
surrounded by giggles and little swimming stars.
I want to reach through the fabric,
with my stitches, giggles,
make waves like that piece of pain
running from my ankle to my ass.
It’s OK because when I breathe
it touches you across radio waves hijacked.
In here we can pretend that it’s OK
to feel grass between toes,
make every chant funnier
by ending it with “in my pants.”
I don’t want the view from above.
Down here we can fling raisins,
into garbage cans and we can
make popsicle pirates in the park
spread eagle, defenses down and out
with the wind of my breath on your radio waves.
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.
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.