Archive for December 2009

The Message

The Message

Richard Rau is dead—
click, disconnect, a dial tone,
and I can’t stop crashing into things:
the coffee table creeps
three inches to kick me in the shin
and out of the medicine chest
toiletries tumble,
Richard Rau is dead—
perfume bottles shattering on tile,
slivers of glass in my feet,
and I can’t stop.
Each face I meet becomes
Richard Rau, nineteen,
after the accident, his right eye
paralyzed, then I remember
Richard Rau is dead—
and I wait for a light to change,
but the sidewalk shifts.
I fall, no one offers help and
Richard Rau is dead—
Cement gems in my hand, I stand,
my skin a road rash.
Some guy on a scooter asks:
“How’d that happen?”
Before I can answer,
he’s gone and I’m five
on a playground of oily asphalt,
shoved by Richard Rau
against a brick wall
in a blind alley behind school,
a fist full of grass stuffed
down my underpants, so I call
my machine but there’s only one message:
Richard Rau is dead—
and I recall how satisfied we were
when he got humbled by that stunt
senior year, stealing the flag,
yanking it from the towering pole,
a washer flying through the air,
perforating his eye, blood-
blistered and blind,
his handsome face forever marred,
and I can’t stop
wandering down avenues
past lap dogs, trash cans, newsstands,
wondering how his face looks now:
Is it frozen like his eye?
Was his drowning accidental?
I don’t know,
but at age thirty-eight
Richard Rau is dead—
and as I step off the curb
a garbage truck runs a red light,
barrels through the crosswalk,
barely missing me,
and a man leans out, one hand
on the wheel, the other waving
through a shroud of smog:
“Don’t stop, baby! Keep movin’. Keep movin’.”

The Handicap

The Handicap

Born a salesman, with a slick grin he lies
even to his mother. “Truth’s a slut—
a filly,” he laughs, that fierce flush in his eyes.
“You must take her, break her, keep her mouth shut.”
Others do the work, but he always gets his cut.
A perfect pitch, master of the bait and switch,
his jive-jazz-hooey’ll hit you in the gut.
See, inside him festers an itch
he has to scratch. Like a nervous tick or twitch
he can’t stop, buys his own crap, can’t keep track
of who he told what. Bad habits are a bitch—
one will land him in the lake, on his back
with concrete feet. A salesman for eternity:
carp his only company.

Midtown Baubo

Midtown Baubo

At 45th and Park, beneath forty stories of steel and glass,
she straddles an overturned bucket:
feet planted on concrete, paper cup in hand.

As I hurry past she yanks up her skirt, bares her belly and,
both mouths exposed, shrieks, “CHANGE!”

I cross the street, stop, noticing for the first time
those tulips along the median
match the taxis—exactly.