Street scenes


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cooing pigeon men

outside morning bar,

grey haired, hazy-headed

drooling for drinks,


their clothing dripping

alley way stink,

a full dozen rip van winkles



croaking rooster brags

of survival





Beer can melody

played friday nights

in the ditch by the highway

Cold-handed lovers

tossed out empty


slightly dented.





His eyes were cold and empty,

a beach-head of dead shells

and hollow crab claws

abandoned by the gulls,

the cleft of his chin, the well,

from which water was drawn,

beach house and drooping porch,

crows-nest flag pole stuck

in the sand, and his hand

upon my shoulder, pressing

me for luck, as the nurses

wheeled him into the eye

of the hurricane.





It was the last plum in the box,

wet purple in wrinkled cardboard,

which Jimmy and I saw at once,

his quick fingers snatching it,

sweat rolling down its smooth skin

as I complained,

he calling it all the sweeter for my desire,

dropping a quarter into the old man's hand

saying he'd eat it later,

and I-- thinking about that plum later in bed,

Williams Carlos Williams open on my chest,

whispering of stolen plums.





Crawling water licks the steps of your cathedral,

old men dressed in wine bottles and urinated clothing

cough in their sleep, harried and hungry strangers

locked out away from you at night,

the trains that hoot from the station two blocks away,

drag in tourists from the summer fairs,

streets clogged with autos,

no time for spring time visits to the shore,

dilapidated factories now their attraction,

before being cleared for condos—

and you, staring out at the skinny-dippers

stripping yourself naked for the cause.





No lost sheep,

just the empty street filled with dawn,

an overdrawn cup brimming vacancy,

fire escape retreats stuffed

with cotton feet and distant sirens,

the shadows lifting none of the tattered shades

rusted cars in wheelless indignity

lay their shattered glass upon the sidewalk

where the chalked mark of child's play

is faded and worn into dust.





There's no place for poets

on Wall Street, Man,

Just parking lots and

big business, and

spiked ledges to keep people

from sitting--

cold calculator eyes

tabulating net worth

from shoe size to tie width,

to ring finger for

possible merger,

where cobblestone

wears through asphalt

like knees through britches,

and there used to be

horses here, you know,

you can still smell

their droppings

on any busy day.






wake in the morning dark

like a worm-catching bird,

the idea of making money

dribbling down your chin

with breakfast coffee,

paranoid business practices

make you check the walls

before leaving home

as if you carried your boss

in your brief case

and your profits

on your sleeve.





Arched windows overhead

the ancient church

scaffolds around its ivory tower,

a model of decency

or orthodoxy



(They say they build

this like notre dame 

one brick at a time)


black limousines in front

like ravens or vultures

engines warming for their

three mile trek

to the cemetery gates


bored men in black ties

lean against their bumpers

smoking cigarettes

as they tell crude jokes


talking over last week's trip,

the soul remembered by

high skirted widows

and babbling children


They, struggling to keep their

laughter down, between butts

against the chorus of moans,

the chanting fervor shaped

by the window slightly ajar,

as if inside, someone was

just then






He was waiting at the door

when I came in at night,

a spotted, tan & grey

malamute, six months of age,

staring at the black sky

and bright bits of broken stars.

By day, only grey showed,

thick July sky with its

unbroken misery of heat,

against which I always

expected him to howl,

like Medea protesting

the unfair universe of Gods.

But he remained silent,

waiting for me

and turn of my key

at night, his wolfish heart

padding out onto the porch

looking to the heavens

for his answers.





The old station still stands in use,

though the rumble of trains shakes

dust from its rafters, and pigeons

from its roof, the cool wind whispering

through passenger-less caverns,

The benches went with the crowds,

torn up from the roots, leaving a floor

of marred tiles, clacking with the arrival

of one morning train and its return at sunset,

It is autumn here, dead leaves sweeping over

the rusted rails and into the vacated doorways

of village shops long marked in yellowed sales

and foreclosure notices.

The graffiti is more recent, walls scrawled

with twisted letters and empty brags, gangland

promises of fertility and violence, but even

the children have vanished, their wandering

feet already stained upon the train's bottom

rung, headed for Eastern Cities with their

brighter fortunes, leaving the rest to pigeons.

Even the old men leave, standing with Atlantic

City tickets clutched in their hands, waiting

to pan the mountains of South Jersey Gold,

while those who remain, rock in their porch swings,

watching the train come and go like a stage show,

watching it pick up speed till the next dead town,

leaving behind the wind to erase its passing,

the rustle of dead leaves calling, calling,

saying this too shall pass away.


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