Snapshots of City


Email to Al Sullivan


One: The house



They sealed the small estate with yellow tape,

police cars parked on two sides,

the face of red brick like old leaves readying to fall,

19th century decorations curled over windows and doors,

the spiked metal fence decayed,

two ancient souls living within for six whole decades,

found dead under a hot, harvest moon,

thirty seven ford T, sitting loose in the gravel drive,

an orphan with no means to inherit,

and crowds of nosy neighbors dawdling over the details

of blood and gore,

while waiting for the television cameras.



Two: Ghetto fire


She stands silent,

a now mute chorister to the street,

her disco beat licked out with blistered flames,

upper bulk blackened

charcoal, flung into the air

a poor woman's confetti,

littering windshields and storefronts--


her second story hung out over the dim

street lamps and broken bottles

where young gather at her feet,

half stunned, half laughing,

at this final change of face.


Her burning mascara pealing back

each layer of paint revealing the past,

mingling into puddles on the stairs,

vaudeville and coffee grinds

spilling out the cracking sides.


Nothing is hidden,

each room opening like a tuna can,

slice of life, evaporating

bath, bedroom and kitchen,


and crumbling lives

huddled in blankets,

witnessing her death.



Three: Click clack memories



Knick-knacks and tourists

clutter the doorway,

Click clack Kodak memories

mocking street level,

smelling of ashtrays and motel soap,

hurrying onto and off of buses from,

times square to battery park,

taking imprinted captives with each flash,

for photographic zoos in Ohio or Kentucky,

their temporary lives here,

measured by check out time,

and maid service against whom

do not disturb signs are no defense,

bags full of wet-wash from Rite Aid,

Pine cones from Central park,

Seashells from Coney Island,

and tickets on American Airlines home,

in case they get robbed.



Four: Food for thought


Fish, carrots and potatoes,

the fundamental meal of being human,

living on the brink,

dirty dishes thick as roaches in the sink,

burned-pot effigies half-scrubbed,

you-- soft at the table-- a victim of domesticated mockery,

peeler gripped between your fingers like a sword,

with me, the infatuated villain,

challenging values and necessities,

thinking love enough to keep bread buttered

and boiling water filled with food.



Five: Where we belong


We like to pretend that we don't belong here,

hard faced tucked in rounded fists,

hiding not the face of age,

but the ageless face of loneliness,

it is angry at times,

a mask that serves to master what is beneath,

begging for sympathy, for painless death,

The man with the cigar set just right,

the girl with chin posed,

the old woman with the umbrella,

even the cop swinging his baton,

all faked and furious and scared,

tight-lipped strangers strangled in desperation,

facing the daylight with eyes closed and mouths shut,

while our minds echo other people's thinking.

We like to pretend that we don't belong here,

and, in fact, we don't.



Six: Snow Blind


the blizzard came,

after you were gone,

pounding on my back

with his frigid fists

as I made the long walk

from downtown,


brick-faced buildings

grinning at me

through the shroud of snow,

my foot prints marring

the perfection of their walk,

reminding me of the place

uptown where you live,

where servant spy me

as rapist or burglar

instead of your date,

I wanted you to stay

and catch the snow flakes

with me,

exposing our tongues

to the raw lash of winter,

where my small wallet

meaning nothing in

the melting snow,

I wanted you to walk

this way with me,

studying the snow-laden limbs,

the ice-encrusted weeds,

in search of warmth.

But now, I stumbled

along this frozen waste,

my footsteps filling in

behind me,

as if I'd never passed

this way.



Seven: Red and White


Jack-the-ripper fog light wavers on the greasy streets,

shines on the steel teeth of closed grocer gates,

lights up the whisper of wet pavement under my feet

rusted auto leaking oil at my feet as I walk,

piles of trash escaping the gates behind the Red and White,

I feel lonely as the day dies, and dusk brings danger,

each face here a potential victim to a lottery of crime,

poor killing poor for poor returns,

leaving Zorro strokes on faces, the way kids leave strokes

on the walls of the church, while behind each window

of each grey house, frightened people huddle

afraid to breathe.



Eight: At issue here


U-turns, red lights,

speeding down Broad Street

in broad daylight,

middle class white men

vote Republican every four years,

fighting for law & order

as they flaunt the rules of the road,

sixty three traffic tickets

stuffed gladly into the glove compartment

with now expired registration

and insurance

and unregistered

38 revolver.



Nine: Literary City


The city ain't ugly man,

it's just another rock left

after the glazier's passed

human-building nature

strangled in the shadows of

abandoned factories,

cool, cruel memory of

era after era

chiseled out of us,

Romantic period verses Realistic

like turfs ought over by uptown

intellectual gangs

or rude old English poets

pulling apart a dead stiff

Blake fighting Dickens

over the pits of Dante

while brooding masses

crawl from door to door,

beggars in anybody's vocabulary.



Ten: Sam


He rattles as he walks,

like a pair of dice ready to roll out onto lucky seven,

thin skinned jaw jutting with thoughts of money already spent:

lottery, cards, horses, horse shoes,

he'd bet on an out of state license plate,

winning as much as losing, always turning cash into wine,

too nervous and thirsty to even stay dead three days,

risen body pleading with bar bouncer to make last call.



Eleven: Trash


The police officer found the child

in a wicker basket on the coldest day of the year,

red face staring up silently as the cop leaned down,

his breath to it like a mother's tit,

waking the child with warmth,

sparking first a whimper then a cry,

the infant shuddering to the sound of the distant siren,

cold wind blowing across its brow,

struggling back from the officer's hands

as he reached in to pick it out of the garbage can.


Poetry Menu



Main Menu

poetry menu

Main Menu

email to Al Sullivan