Friday, July 18, 2008

poem of the day 07.18.08

gates of hell

i get off the subway
i get off into hell
with the new york city weather
hitting ninety
and the smell of garbage
and human shit
and madmen already huddled under
dark awnings
with quarts of beer
and nothing but time on their hands.

on the corner of nostrand and president
there is a woman passed out
on her side by the curb.
she is wearing a purple blouse
a flowing black dress
and her legs are crossed as if
the world is nothing but hers
and casual.

maybe she is drunk.
maybe she is debauched beyond repair.
maybe she is dead.

people are walking by her
stepping over her to go to work
or into a bodega.
i am thinking about li po
and my high cholesterol
how i’m not making it
and the taste of a tall boy of natural ice
that my doctor told me not
to have.
i am sorry to say this
but the woman is circumstantial to me
while caught in the cusp
of my little world.

and when someone finally stops
and calls to the cops at the corner
to come and check the victim out
and the cops move slow as cops do
as if they didn’t choose their own death,
their conversation about
nfl training camps suspended for
the moment
i see firsthand the kind of company
that i’m starting to keep.

the cop and i make eye contact.
we are two white men in the
black brooklyn neighborhood
on a hot, endless july day.
he rolls his eyes at me and smiles,
saunters off toward the woman
who is still comatose on the concrete
while i stop at a red light
waiting calmly to cross
another of hell’s streets
off toward fate
collecting beads of sweat on my tongue,
looking down the next block
toward my crooked, stinking

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