Victoria Gate ☊
Maybe she was crying before she got on the coach at Marble Arch, settled in the seat across from me, but by the time we reach Victoria Gate, tears stream down her face, mouth open to receive her own sacrament.
Indian, ageless in tasteful floral, a blue sweater despite summer heat, an iPod clutched
in her hand. Traditional music bleeds from earbuds, then shifts to Bollywood techno beat.
And still she cries. Along Bayswater Road, her glassy eyes reverential, meeting her gaze feels like blasphemy. Who is she missing or mourning, or maybe it’s what – her own bed, mother’s cooking, stillness.
London is short on sympathy when it comes to heartbreak and homesickness, not so subtly tells you to walk it off. But sometimes at night when you’re riding past Hyde Park and dusky silhouettes arm-in-arm are framed by bus windows, a familiar song can collapse resolve, make you reach for the red hammer over your seat to crack the escape glass. Then unbuckle and rise through the treetops until the lamp at Victoria Gate is a pinprick, insignificant, up to the stratosphere where equilibrium inverts and tears become the stars that will guide you home.
Knoxville: Summer, 1982 ☊
100 degrees at the World’s Fair
the Sunsphere shimmers
a giant lollipop that loses
its flavor in one lick.
We sit in a cheap motel room
flipping through unfamiliar TV
our sweat-soaked clothes
stiffening in the over-chilled air.
No one speaks.
Her abandoned lover 236 miles away
my mother watches the phone
a pot that will never boil again
reaches for it, then withdraws.
Back home, Bruce jerks off
without me in his dark basement
fantasizes about cocktease Karen
decides my hand is not enough.
Dad wants to see the body farm
bones picked clean of worries
free of cheats, brats and bills
his 43rd birthday goes unmentioned.
That night I dream the Sunsphere
is a Magic 8 Ball in my hand
I shake it hard, but the same message
always floats to the surface:
better not tell you now.
At Lake Forest Plaza
– East New Orleans
The hotel is a skeleton,
whitewashed ribs, its name a shadow
etched into the wall like nuclear flash.
Read Blvd. is just one ground zero,
I-10 a gallery of ruin.
My memory is long.
I came here on the run from Chris,
when he was alive and crazy,
unwinding the double helix of us,
embarrassed by his public madness.
I wanted to sweat him out anonymously,
heat cure for lingering malady.
I could only afford the outskirts,
but I had memorized the map
so Canal, Vieux Carre, Carondelet,
St. Charles, Garden District
were second tongue, steeped
in Tennessee, Truman, Ignatius
and Julie Marsden in a red dress
at the Olympus Ball.
This is 1992, dumplin', 1992, not the Dark Ages.
I learned to acclimate, even found
charm in the Lake Forest Plaza Mall,
its food court a cheap haven,
when I could find pleasure in nothing.
Chris and money burning holes
in my pockets, finally going for broke –
Maison Blanche, mon amour.
On TV, helicopters hovered
over the flooded mall, waist deep
black water, tattered roof waving
white flags and although it had been
10 years since I’d set foot there,
my hand traced the places
where I’d walked to shake Chris off.
I should have called him then,
when he was alive and not crazy.
I know that now, driving past the place
where the mall used to stand, swept
off the earth as if some angry god’s hand
descended and cleared a table.
After break up and make up,
my parents took me to see Aliens.
R rated treat for being a brave little soldier.
No xenomorphs could match
the double-jawed bite and acid tongue
of my mother and father in protracted battle.
I had put myself in stasis
to stop my chest from bursting.
As the reel unfurled Ripley’s nightmare,
I shed another layer of skin,
put one foot in the aisle,
white-knuckled the armrests for dust off.
Every man for himself.
I was almost sixteen.
The space between us would be vast.
UK police term for a person who does not match expected terrorist profiles
When shoplifting is no longer a thrill,
turn your attention to heaven,
the promises of gold, riches and girls
all waiting on the other side.
Set aside chemistry, child rearing and cricket
for they are false prophets, western sirens.
They carry rucksacks into King’s Cross,
these clean boys, these untouched boys,
these led astray, almost men.
Dirty yourself once and glory is forever.
Your names will be on every television,
put fellow passengers out of mind,
their flesh the only barrier to your reward.
What’s left of the corporeal will splatter
on train carriage walls or fly hot-baked
into the buildings around Tavistock Square.
Oh, boys, the ones who sent you here
will not tell you this finality, that you become
residue that scatters in the wind or settles
in gutters, not heavy enough to rise.