A sticky evening in July:
A stack of air conditioners hum,
each spewing its unique condensate,
soaking the red bricks and spalling grout
between each floor of our apartment house.
We hear men’s voices call out “mom” and “wow”,
as forks and knives clink into sinks.
Eerie rooftop silhouettes fade:
our jagged parapet dissolves
in short-lived twilight.
The creeping nightfall accentuates
a flashing glimmer
of dusty Baghdad scenes
from a TV screen,
in a darkened living room,
where a widow waits on her sagged settee
for sleep to come.
Home from our labors
the kingdom sups,
then shares the nodding reverie of meat.
October Lunch / Times Square / Ca. ‘69
I eat lunch standing, facing glass,
and watch the sloshing cabs.
I notice her reflection: seated
by the back wall of the eatery,
with taxis sloshing through her body.
Frail: her coat seems like a house for her.
She’s blotting oil off her French fries,
one by one.
Soaked sawdust squishes beneath my feet.
I grab a chair.
Her royal blue beret’s embellished
with a flowery burst of rhinestones.
Before her, a bunch of crumpled napkins,
made translucent by the grease.
With face as white as dime store talc,
thin lips thickened, reddened with a waxy stick:
“You’re too young to remember me;
Toured the state in ’23.
Danced on the line y’know.
We played the Palace
and the Women’s House
That was a lovely place.
Each girl had her own little room,
her own little sink.”
Next to us
a guy cuts a hot dog with a switchblade.
She asks to “pass more napkins, please.”
Le Drugstore Fire
“She loves you yeah, yeah, yeah…”
a scratchy Beatle
keeps repeating “she loves you”,
as unattended crepes curl
and a stabbing heat seeps
through the mall wall.
A grey billow swirls up
from the open door,
blurring the neon script L E – D R
and wafting past U G S T O R E
Up on the sparking rooftop, eyes aglow,
chortling gargoyles grin and gaze,
flicking grit down on the dazed
on the Champs Elysees.
A plea pierces the murmuring crowd:
“Beatrice mon amour?!
Beatrice ma cherie?!”
Within, a stumbling tourist falls
on a rack of mohair sweaters.
(a clicking crash of plastic hangers)
A sputtering sprinkler dampens the panic,
as shoppers slip on the slick floor
toward the red “SORTIE”,
tripping over one too faint to flee,
who vaguely stares at a spinning light on the ceiling,
flashing: “Moulin Rouge”, “Moulin Rouge”.
The “Lost & Found” drops
one flight down
on top of hot lockers
from the stock boy dressing room.
Flaming staircases dangle.
Escalator motors hum, stuck.
Their ozonic odor drifts and mixes
with the scents of melting vinyl,
gruyere cheese, scorched Valium,
and nylon on the burn.
Choking, she knows she must bust out
or skin will pop,
like the skin of that pig in Le Pub
that casually turned on a spit,
that spit hot fat in a pail
that flamed up.
Panic not fueled beyond reason,
she grasps that breath
lies past the jagged glass.
Her singeing hairs recoil, pushing her
out onto the high stone ledge.
I will catch you in my fingers!”
As she steps off
into the autumn night
the fresh air reminds her
that she drops heavily
toward the Boulevard,
the reaching, reaching men.
She passes by the bare bulbs of a street lamp
in her new shoes.
About the Author
A product of P.S.33 in the Bronx, Mark spent his formative years adjusting rabbit
ears (on the TV) and otherwise awaiting a sainthood designation &/or the guy
from The Millionaire
standing at the door of Apt. 1C with a check on
a tray. When that didn’t pan out, he endured a peptic 40 year ride getting
& spending, while attending workshops at the New School & 92nd St. Y.
Emerged from the abyss, the Muse still extant, he is now under the aggressive
tutelage of Lew Gardner @ the Woodstock Senior Writing Workshop.
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