“Paint me a pair of bold anfractuous rocks
set somewhere in the Cyclades—a spot
totally removed from Time. No clocks.”
I’d settle for a sunny August, hot
enough to melt an Erlenmeyer flask.
We could emerge from a cool underpass,
catch a guitar weeping, an old song,
a crowd of children shrieking, a Great Lawn
surrounding people with some place to be
hurrying to different destinations.
“Who comes to Central Park on their vacations?”
I would demand of the demented bee
circling a can of garbage going sour.
Surely, God would not begrudge an hour
of timelessness unto humanity—
his representatives on Earth. He must
have made us and forgotten us. Maybe.
How else would you explain the missing bus,
the leaky awning, and the pouring rain—
this longing to be elsewhere? Hence, the plane
landing on a distant isle in Greece
ahead of schedule—look—the Cyclades
bathed in Hellenic blue. And far below—
almost invisible on the white beach—
there is a tempting red umbrella which
I am convinced belongs to me. Although,
it could be a reflection from the ad—
for Travelers Insurance—that is bad-
ly flirting with me from across the street.
A fault in one of its florescent lights.
Flutter. Flicker. Blackout. And repeat—
ad infinitum. How I hate these nights!
These vicious, tantalizing sights! To
say I hate New York would not be true.
We have a strange relationship, I’d say.
We need each other, sort of, in the way
a sad, sadistic cop requires a good
(but rather stupid) buddy on the force
to buy Budweisers for him, post-divorce,
hear how he has wrecked his life. Ours would
make a fine, redemptive movie script,
down to the last, cheesy tortilla chip.
For now, a cone of pink chrysanthemums—
to match the dozen frosted donuts I
picked up from Dunkin’ for dessert—some
blocks back—before Zeus unzipped the sky—
will join our little shopping list. “How
much are these flowers?” I ask the fellow
sweeping up the petals, thorns and leaves
he has been pruning. “Not the roses—these,”
I point sharply at the mums again.
The chalkboard with the prices on it had
suffered like my patience from the mad
downpour. Slowly, a young Mexican
lifts five green fingers in front of his face—
his exhausted face. What a place
to hide such beauty. “Yes, I’ll take those, thanks,”
I mutter roughly, with embarrassment,
pulling out a wet ten with two yanks,
sending a quarter rolling down pavement
to gutter. Pirouetting on the drain,
it spins to rest, shining in the rain
atop a flattened cup—a blue pancake—
supporting crooked letters I can make
out to read, ‘Happy To Serve You.’
Exactly who is happy to be serving
whom lies beyond my powers of observing
because of how the cup is crushed. In lieu
of other parties with a claim to it,
I give green fingers a five dollar tip
and go retrieve my quarter from the cup,
before somebody else does. In this town,
some moments are too precious to give up.
A lucky coin can turn your life around
like that: ‘Fortune rota volvitur,’
rolling to the sewer your last quarter,
while on The Wheel of Fortune someone spins
above an orange pyramid. Who wins?
Who cares? I have my quarter and I’m glad.
The best ten dollars that were ever spent
by any man beneath the Firmament.
Do I exaggerate? Perhaps a tad.
But just a tad. That magic emerald hand
has turned The Wheel into a salsa band
by changing channels. How I love TV!
Think of all the money that we could
save on drugs and psychotherapy
if human hearts came with remotes! A mood
is altered just by tapping on your nose,
fine-tuned further peeling off damp clothes,
then fiddling a minute with a nipple.
A politician still might come to cripple
sex, now and then, and Monday night football
pre-empt some dreary real-life drama
with dancing linebackers, or a bomber
blowing up an airplane force us all
to interview a few shocked families.
But we could always turn off our TVs—
like that. Returning richer from the gutter,
I collect my donuts and cut flowers.
It seems the thunderstorm’s begun to splutter.
This I attribute to my quarter’s powers,
patting the faint circle on my thigh
embossed by my good luck. I decide
there is no point in waiting. I am wet.
I can’t get any wetter now. I bet
the guy who drives that bus is named Godot.
Assuming this, and better weather later,
we say goodbye to Jorge’s cramped bodega.
I need to meet Takaaki for a show—
War of the Worlds—at quarter after eight.
Taka-chan will shoot me if I’m late.
Originally published in The Raintown Review, Volume 9 Issue 2 (2011)