Friday, June 21, 2013

Street Scenes


cooing pigeon men
outside morning bar,
grey haired, hazy-headed
drooling for drinks,

their clothing dripping
alley way stink,
a full dozen rip van winkles
croaking rooster brags
of survival


Beer can melody
played friday nights
in the ditch by the highway
Cold-handed lovers
tossed out empty
slightly dented.


His eyes were cold and empty,
a beach-head of dead shells
and hollow crab claws
abandoned by the gulls,
the cleft of his chin, the well,
from which water was drawn,
beach house and drooping porch,
crows-nest flag pole stuck
in the sand, and his hand
upon my shoulder, pressing
me for luck, as the nurses
wheeled him into the eye
of the hurricane.


It was the last plum in the box,
wet purple in wrinkled cardboard,
which Jimmy and I saw at once,
his quick fingers snatching it,
sweat rolling down its smooth skin
as I complained,
he calling it all the sweeter for my desire,
dropping a quarter into the old man's hand
saying he'd eat it later,
and I-- thinking about that plum later in bed,
Williams Carlos Williams open on my chest,
whispering of stolen plums.


Crawling water licks the steps of your cathedral,
old men dressed in wine bottles and urinated clothing
cough in their sleep, harried and hungry strangers
locked out away from you at night,
the trains that hoot from the station two blocks away,
drag in tourists from the summer fairs,
streets clogged with autos,
no time for spring time visits to the shore,
dilapidated factories now their attraction,
before being cleared for condos—
and you, staring out at the skinny-dippers
stripping yourself naked for the cause.


No lost sheep,
just the empty street filled with dawn,
an overdrawn cup brimming vacancy,
fire escape retreats stuffed
with cotton feet and distant sirens,
the shadows lifting none of the tattered shades
rusted cars in wheelless indignity
lay their shattered glass upon the sidewalk
where the chalked mark of child's play
is faded and worn into dust.


There's no place for poets
on Wall Street, Man,
Just parking lots and
big business, and
spiked ledges to keep people
from sitting--
cold calculator eyes
tabulating net worth
from shoe size to tie width,
to ring finger for
possible merger,
where cobblestone
wears through asphalt
like knees through britches,
and there used to be
horses here, you know,
you can still smell
their droppings
on any busy day.


wake in the morning dark
like a worm-catching bird,
the idea of making money
dribbling down your chin
with breakfast coffee,
paranoid business practices
make you check the walls
before leaving home
as if you carried your boss
in your brief case
and your profits
on your sleeve.


Arched windows overhead
the ancient church
scaffolds around its ivory tower,
a model of decency
or orthodoxy

(They say they build
this like notre dame 
one brick at a time)

black limousines in front
like ravens or vultures
engines warming for their
three mile trek
to the cemetery gates

bored men in black ties
lean against their bumpers
smoking cigarettes
as they tell crude jokes

talking over last week's trip,
the soul remembered by
high skirted widows
and babbling children

They, struggling to keep their
laughter down, between butts
against the chorus of moans,
the chanting fervor shaped
by the window slightly ajar,
as if inside, someone was
just then


He was waiting at the door
when I came in at night,
a spotted, tan & grey
malamute, six months of age,
staring at the black sky
and bright bits of broken stars.
By day, only grey showed,
thick July sky with its
unbroken misery of heat,
against which I always
expected him to howl,
like Medea protesting
the unfair universe of Gods.
But he remained silent,
waiting for me
and turn of my key
at night, his wolfish heart
padding out onto the porch
looking to the heavens
for his answers.


The old station still stands in use,
though the rumble of trains shakes
dust from its rafters, and pigeons
from its roof, the cool wind whispering
through passenger-less caverns,
The benches went with the crowds,
torn up from the roots, leaving a floor
of marred tiles, clacking with the arrival
of one morning train and its return at sunset,
It is autumn here, dead leaves sweeping over
the rusted rails and into the vacated doorways
of village shops long marked in yellowed sales
and foreclosure notices.
The graffiti is more recent, walls scrawled
with twisted letters and empty brags, gangland
promises of fertility and violence, but even
the children have vanished, their wandering
feet already stained upon the train's bottom
rung, headed for Eastern Cities with their
brighter fortunes, leaving the rest to pigeons.
Even the old men leave, standing with Atlantic
City tickets clutched in their hands, waiting
to pan the mountains of South Jersey Gold,
while those who remain, rock in their porch swings,
watching the train come and go like a stage show,
watching it pick up speed till the next dead town,
leaving behind the wind to erase its passing,
the rustle of dead leaves calling, calling,
saying this too shall pass away.

Street Scenes

No comments:

Post a Comment