As night descends, we stop
for Chinks' at our favorite hole
on Tenth, across from the gas station.
It's summer, so I sit on the sidewalk
to wait. A bald man in pale pink shorts
offers me his dog, a mangey thing I pet
reluctantly. Our super, he complains, he's changing
the rules to no pets. Around the corner,
a homeless woman sprawls
against the bricks of the deli, muttering
about a man who wronged her once.
Two cops enter and place their order--fried rice,
lo mein, kung pao chicken, fortune cookies. The shorter
cop insists, Fortune cookies. Don't forget.
A guy comes in to tell them about the woman, a look
of loathing smeared across the canvas of his concerened face.
The cops agree to check it out and the guy takes off,
his duty done. Their food comes first, before ours,
and they go get in their car, towing horses that kick and whinny
in their trailer, and depart. On our way back to the apartment,
the woman's still there, still mired in her filthy pile
of bags and rags, still accusing
her long-lost lover.
In July, in Hell's Kitchen,
the tourists stream between
Times Square and the Intrepid all day long
till dusk seeps in between the buildings.
Then, after that, the streets are ours,
these avenues above the railroad tracks
littered with clothes, toys, broken bottles, rusted
metal, scraps of life. As dusk descends,
a warm breeze, like tropical, ripples
in from the river, softening the torpid heat and bringing
sweet relief. The sky, too, takes pleasure
in its own darkening. Blue leaks into
lighter blue, till dusk has stained
the whole sky to New Jersey, leaving us
night, Eighth Avenue, pimps, whores,
dancers, dealers, and the gaudy circus of the doomed
under the racy neon billboards.
Starbucks, Chase, Walt Disney smile down
like T. J, Eckleburg in a story long forgotten
by this milling populace.
We think nothing of where we are
till we are gone, and then we miss it.
We complain of the heat, the crowds,
our lack of money, of room,
of air conditioning and dignity,
of the city we fight to live, and yet love,
never once suspecting this is all there is--
this breeze, this darkening sky between
the tenements sloping toward the river,
and that old black man's voice crying out,
down on the street, through all the hours
of the livelong night,
"I'll fuck your mother, motherfucker!"
-November 1st, 2002