By: Mark Fitzpatrick
Overweight, cherub-faced, young man in a yellow Batman T-shirt
shooed away by enough women
so that he’d rather spend his hours
curled up in a cave with computers,
crusading against those who disdain love and intimacy
and devote their genius to crime.
How lucky for him!
unrequited love sublimates
into a vengeance for justice!
Out into the world he goes
into the rain, on a hot July day,
with his reverence for heroism and his steaming espresso,
catching the J7 bus,
late for work.
Sandal straps twist up her slender brown legs
like vines or serpents,
an Afro-Roman goddess,
ears plugged into the soul music she sings
as she sashays down the street.
But out of her ankles sprout no wings,
no chariot comes to whisk her away.
No golden fruit will fall at her feet
nor Romulus nor Remus lick her toes
She swings down the drizzled street,
her unconscious prayer for Mister Right.
The guy about to be consumed by his tattoos
and become a walking wall of graffiti,
arms at his sides, soldier-like
cigarette jutting straight out of his mouth
Fitzpatrick, Street Scene, p 2, stanza continued
like another appendage;
gray dirty tank top, greasy wavy hair,
oblivious to rain or heat or sweat,
marches down the sidewalk,
marches as if he really did
have somewhere to go.
Two teenage girls flouting their nascent well-shaped bodies,
dressed and striding in the effervescence of sexuality —
short-short skirts, slender legs, heavy on the perfume —
But mouths drumming
litanies of “then she said . . . then he said,”
line after line after line of dialogue
as rapidly as the raindrops,
documenting their existential plight:
the brain unable to catch up with the body.
Two men inside the bus queue on the bench
as constant as the pigeons though wingless,
gray suspenders holding up their dull gray polyester pants,
plaid caps, thick glasses, both with pipes,
(sometimes, one will hold the pipe in the air,
cirlcing it like a conjurer),
jabbering on and on about yesterday
as if it were so far away
as if they have really noticed everything everywhere
as if in the time of which they speak
they neither heard nor saw
two old featherless birds like themselves
warbling over the lost glories of yesterday.
The salt-and-pepper bearded Arabic man
who looks like Jesus
or a terrorist
sits coffee-less at the cafe
with the dingy shirt he has worn all week;
wide-eyed, staring into the rain,
Cold, wet leaf slaps against
the three-piece suit of the middle-aged businessman,
wet, ragged leaf in its free fall.
Hear him curse, hiss,
holding it like a caught fish,
then flick it off,
a well-dressed wreckage of a Tuesday morning.
And you in your bright maroon hijab and lime-green raincoat
— what are your thoughts?
Sunny smile but heavy accent as you order a latte,
gazing at your smartphone–
are you reading
the directions for the day?
Or grinning at all the choices
you are free to make?
The streets, the city, people everywhere
all fixated on their phones,
attuned to a cosmos inside their skulls,
wires attached to their ears,
connected to the machine in their hand.
People here yet mentally elsewhere.
to not be alone on a wet, summer morning.
Am I unlike them?
Talking to God on buses, in coffee shops,
in the passenger seat of a friend’s car,
while walking across the Green —
so much need just to know
if there is someone on the other end.
THE SNOWMAN AND THE VIRGIN
frozen state of dissolution,
free of nightmares, wet dreams, heat rash,
I see you melting in the barren fields,
you who ordered me to stand still,
roll myself up to a spot, remain
your crystal words of wisdom:
you said to just watch sunrise and sunset
remain a pillar between darknesses
become a solitude
magician liar murderer
with your swastika-stick arms
you Unmoved you Unfed
you built a world for me
until a black child in Chicago told me,
“Snowmens don’t have no feets!”
you dance you sing
your voice the music of the mountains
Spirit descends on you
like the feather dancers
flowery birds of heaven
swinging out into empty space
soaring through vastness —
Spirit descends on you
the New World in your womb
your garments glitter
in their simplicity their opulence
the gold-green-blue universe a codex of color
a sparkling new art
your gown pinked by the rising sun
or blood stain
the blood of birth
mestizaje mother and morning song
in the pregnancy of your body
my rebirth is to be found
SOUL LACE/ SOLACE
2AM, Dubai airport:
This check-in like a broken-down bowling alley;
the terminals like Sax 5th Avenue,
glittzier than any American mall,
departure gates hidden amidst elegance.
I am Alice fallen down a rabbit hole.
War and Peace, my companion through the night,
waiting for my Cairo flight.
And then the desert wind sweeps her in —
black, statuesque, a dazzling darkness;
no nihkob, no hijab,
but long legs in tight, gray sweat pants,
corkscrew curls popping all over her head
like confetti ribbons at New Years.
Sliding into the seat directly opposite me,
languid as a cat, stretching those long legs out on her carry-on.
Oh, night vision!
My brain, a fever and a drumbeat and a thunderstorm —
curl up on my lap, o soul kitty, let me whisper into your delicious ear
The lightning flashes in her eyes,
curl of a smile as she catches me gawking.
Retreating into War and Peace, red with embarrassment,
soul longing soul lingering
the strongholds crumble
the temple of my security
cracks in two —
the sunrise of my soul and the rainbow of my blues
my wanderings have weathered me down
I only feel the raw nerve of pulsing desire —
soul longing for Soul Kitty to cool and heat me in this desert,
soul leaning on the keys of an organ — tremolo, tremolo, tremolo
I sip my latte, pray the plane boards soon . . .
The aircraft lifts off the ground, the city below littered with lights
(There is a party going on somewhere tonight, my sexy Soul Kitty).
But I was not one of those who in high school stepped out with the dance divas,
swept the gym floor (later the clubs) with my moves
nor have I memories of the star-studded, hubcap heaven of cars and back seats,
parked by lakes or forests or graveyards, vibrations and violations to the dj in the dark —
my adventures more mundane and useless:
digging music no one listens to, writing poems no one will read
the dark night of the soul — so alone —
in the weight of the heart or the crack of the stone –
unconscious blues sung in swing rhythm — solo, alone:
as if the band is really hot but you got to work tomorrow
so you rise to leave but you don’t go —
solo on the keyboards solo on the sax
held back by the music, by the feet that still want to swing and sway and dance — entranced —
my soul which briefly knew how to be soul
soul full of yesterday’s blues
waits, lost in reminiscence, trying to sink into War and Peace —
(There is still a party going on somewhere tonight, Soul Kitty, but I am too far away to be there.)
soulful soul full
soul longing in the longest night of the year