"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Poetry II

 

New York (1968)

i

 

The first of damp days

Came clicking on the flagstones

    like sparrows to peck at puddles

    to loosen the mortar from old brick

 

To smell wool wet

    like a cat streaked down and

    washed grey from soft blackened soot

 

Licking the air thick

    with fried fish

 

The slippery fish that the Chinaman scrapes

And slaps on the printed page

That oozes through and looks at you

 

ii

 

‘Cripples’, said the doctor, ‘are my life’

But her with the matted hair

To hear her crawl and shout ‘bastard’

I press my ear to the door and wait.

 

She’s in there now with the old man

    dying

Rattling their throats like drainpipes

 

How she fought to keep us out, God!

Turned her tail and arch-back heeled when I cried

His fingers closed the wound as he held his glass

 

Doc said  ‘I slapped Mary’s black ass

    and fucked her till she came

    stinking like wet garbage or fish heads

 

He washed down his beer

And shot her full of insulin to get her high

 

‘Mary have voodoo blood’, shouts the Captain, her man

‘She sick in de head, ain’t she, Doc?’

But Doc he makin’ a call

And de Captain he don’ wanna come in

‘Cause Mary, she screamin’ ready to cut her throat.

 

iii

 

The rats are back, reeking like the old broom

That Mary uses to sweep them into the street

Or to whitewash her stoop

 

Sometimes they climb the walls

To join Doc through his open window

    eating the floorboards where he waits

    to sharpen their teeth

    like long pointed leaves

 

I can hear him muffled in the dust

Stifling in the street noise

While Mary holds court below.

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