Broadway & 116th
were waiting for him
at the subway exit
he wasn’t about to explain
he was headed home
from an old movie
Me and My Gal
cops on horses
and prefer you gallop wordlessly
down the hill toward Riverside Drive
and enjoy the jittery Jersey skyline
On My Sixth Birthday
What I wanted was a carrot
but I could not find orange
in my grandfather’s garden
that snickering spring day.
I could not escape the greenness.
Even the tomatoes were colored
by the stark spring green.
My uncle, inhaling disdain
deep into his doomed lungs,
knew the carrots were hidden
underground. He lingered
on the back porch steps
savoring his knowledge
and his mocking smoke rings.
He wasn’t much
for sharing secrets
or anything else.
I did in time inherit
his old comic books
that he left piled
beside his bed.
I’ve always been slow
to figure things
but nowadays I know
where carrots hide
and where my uncle is buried.
Sidetrack's Last Haircut
Maybe he’d been a brakeman
like he said, rattling around
the Old Colony
and the Boston and Albany
until he swam through booze
all the way to the end of the Crazy Track
after his betrothed drowned in Farm Pond.
The sticky fistful of quarters was enough
to cover his simple request: Cut it all off.
Casella used the clippers and carpeted
the hardwood with the longest hair
he’d ever seen on a man.
After Sidetrack loped away smelling of talc
the barber doused every inch of leather and metal
with Vitalis and wiped it all down with a crisp linen towel.
Not much else happened that Tuesday.
He switched on the Grundig Majestic. The Red Sox lost.
Locust, Near 9th
She sat on the hood of his car again
hunched in the dark smoking
her old brand. She had
her reasons and a key
she wouldn’t use. Four floors up
also in the dark but smoke-free
he gnawed on microwave pizza.
It tasted like her tobacco tongue
and made him cry. He refused
to show himself at the window.
That had been Cool Hand Luke’s
mistake. She would be out
of cigarettes and gone before
the paper hit the stoop
faithful at least
to her punctilious boss.
At lunchtime Laura’s left lens
fell out and shattered on Rue de Furstemberg. Her French
was Hackensack bad
but she pronounced “merde”
with Edith Piaf perfection and at that moment
fully grasped the concept
of “le mot juste.” She gasped
and spent the rest of the misleading afternoon half blind
misreading emails, headlines, pursed lips,
furtive glances. Well,
c’est fucking dommage
and all that Parisian whatever. She had exhaled
the entire day
by the time she confronted
François in the boudoir.
He removed her one-eyed glasses
and proffered her a glass
of Grand Cru Red Bordeaux and a glance
she loosely translated as What’s the good word?
I have a “mot” that is “juste” for you, my little baguette,
she said naked to the gorgeous bowing and vowing blur
he had become. It tickled her
to let it trickle into his ear.
There were a few old copper coins
on the cardboard, a flat piece of waste
from The Dessert Place. The girl's
feet were bare and grimy, her gritty eyes
the color of the river, the coins,
the shawl draped forever over her
The crossing was deserted now,
but the buses would be unloading soon
a block away, and the ensuing jingle-jangle
of coin on the carton would take her mind
away from the cold. She stuck her thumb
into her bucktoothed face and tried
to burrow into the old woman's
..........Today the river made no noise.
Later, she thought, she would walk on the water
as far as the Ha'penny Bridge. It would be dark
then, the fog laced with ice, trash rattling
in the alleys, after her grandmother slid
back from the bake shop muttering as always
Time with Peggy
Mommy smokes Chesterfields
while she breastfeeds
our baby brother Larry.
Later I’ll make you and Stevie
a grilled cheese
she lets me know.
Mom says it’s always
easy to change Jerry
because of the brace
that links his ankles.
Once she broke Tommy’s glasses
with her boar bristle hairbrush.
Ma trades stares
with Kenny and Lenny.
They are the last
the ones who let her know
we just can’t last
One Minute Dead
He was nonplussed to discover
that Heaven was his grandmother’s kitchen,
not the Buñuel film
he had anticipated. There was custard
in the oven and no one seemed to notice
the kettle whistling. There couldn’t
possibly be enough beatific tea bags
in the canister. But Heaven
have to make sense. The linoleum
was still cracked and there weren’t
“Where’s God, Auntie Rie?” he asked his godmother.
She was a girl again, the sublime babysitter
who taught him how to tie his shoes and play
Hangman. “In the parlor,” she said, her voice
a silken whisper, “watching Lawrence Welk.”
Boyd's Requiem, Cue the Incense
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