Mean Streets #1
In a Third Avenue turn of winter
I warm myself in a back booth
of a porn shop. The girl
with pop-up hands
with black cat vibes
and sleek artificial eyes,
green and disposable
in one-night contacts,
YOU’RE NOT A LUPUS JUNKIE.
Before me and not a whisper
or trace of an outside
third-party voyeur or someone’s
rubbish in dawn’s after-hour streets,
she strips, peeling
layers of skin, onion-thin
a different shade for each
child who died a flower’s death
and never turned in the parent,
every portal of faulty communication–
eyes, nose, mouth,
stretched into alien longings,
crack-lines hiding vertigo
acid trips without sponsor,
until there is nothing but bone.
I can name each one: the femur,
the tibia, the cranial shell,
so lonely without a prisoner.
She turns to leave
all skeleton and wind song,
echoes of cochlea,
snails funny on snooze-control
and my words are as useless
as pennies of a foreign currency.
Holding the third rib on her
mother’s side, I yell “What the hell
am I supposed to do with this?”
“It’s a hand-out,” the disembodied
voice cries from across the street,
and I know that I’m feeling lucky
these days the soup-lines are long
and in denial and the broth is really
the consistency of the best reduction:
your mother’s water and mucus
when she first pushed you out.
Paraphrasing a Dream
You dream of your father’s house
moon-dappled leaves, autumn crisp,
his favorite elm that he planted
before you were born
too big to get your arms around.
The porch light flicks on
your new step-mother,
the one he used to introduce
as his “best research assistant”
the one you told your friends
her ugly teeth
& her bad table manners,
is calling you
in her best imitation
of hyena shrill
that your father
is having a second heart attack.
Those weren’t her exact words.
& over time,
the two of you exchanged roles
like neurotic playmates.
The story did not end
with you hating