18 June 2008

Puma Perl

puma perl
naming the wild flowers

Ruth was long and blonde
She lived in the yellow house
up the road
She drove a pick-up
Painted houses, taught school
Baked pumpernickel
with secret ingredients
like mashed potatoes

She left the yellow house
to live with Allen on Bald Hill
His face was hidden
behind a bushy beard
Glasses and a hat
His head was usually down
He picked it up for Ruth
Turned out to be quite handsome

Wild flowers grew by the door
Ruth recited their names slowly,
like a child learning the alphabet
Fireweed Goldenrod
Spring Beauty
Jack in the Pulpit
In a little girl’s voice
She called out each name

Years later they came downtown
It was winter, she wore a pair of pants
around her neck, she had no scarf
After an hour, it was Allen’s turn
She buried her face
in a stained cabled sweater
Her skin was as yellow as
the house up the road,
She spoke in a rasp, broken
teeth, cracked eyes
Burnt matches fell
from her pockets

They left hand in hand
Nicotine fingers entwined
She looked back at me once
The wind whipped her hair
Into her eyes, covered her face
She used to smell like lemons
I remembered her
Sitting on a country step
Could still hear her
In a child’s voice
Naming the wild flowers

in coney island yesterday

it was the siren festival
yesterday in coney island
bands played past sundown
in cyclone shadows
tattoos ate the projects
the parachute jump watched uselessly
white boys moved their shoulders
when they danced
i wanted to tell them to stop
but they used different drugs than I did
nodding is a lost art
helps you dance on the downbeat
still, there’s an art to everything
i swore i could read bathroom lines
pick people least likely
to do anything but pee
on a bad day they shit
thing is you can’t see inside
on line at my chosen portapotty
we bounced like weeble wobbles
finally an asian flower emerged
head down, eyes low
scratching her face
dressed in white lace
she floated past us
leapt into the arms of a
a smiling sideburned man
he kissed her shimmering head
the crowd parted
bodies entwined
they flew away
leaving behind
their morphine scent

belinda’s cousin (part 7)

tato's plane landed on new york city ice
he wore two sweatshirts and a denim jacket
shot straight downtown and copped a bag
ran into belinda on a st marks corner
he knew her from san juan, that made them cousins

later, everyone sat on belinda's floor drinking beer
they laughed like drunken five year olds
tato fell in love with belinda's friend deedee
a big white girl in poodle skirts and knee socks
they ran up and down six flights of stairs
singing songs from west side story

tato was the darkest one in his family
sometimes they called him blanca nieves
his birth name was reserved for welfare cases
the occasional drug bust or suicide attempt
there was never enough dope
for a ny january, definitely not february too

deedee and tato got their own place
every time she went out
a piece of furniture disappeared
she'd notice a bureau in a thrift store
a couch being loaded on a truck
she stopped going out and stayed in bed
tato brought her cuban sandwiches
café con leche and heroin

deedee got tired of waking up sick
her poodle skirts were too big
there was a rat in the toilet bowl
pigeons on the fire escape
all tato brought was bodega coffee
and twinkies or little debbie cakes
she moved uptown and got a job

tato died in belinda's house
she said he was fine when she left
she told the story in the bars
asked for money to bury him
someone called deedee at work
she went to the bathroom and cried
later she sat on belinda's floor
shot up the funeral money
said good bye to tato

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