As dusk descends I shrink
into the collar of my blue chesterfield,
quicken my step. I use my books as a shield
before my chest to deflect their stares while a phalanx
of drunks huddles around fires in steel drums
with mickeys roasting on sticks. One shadows me.
I pray for a subway station among the gutter-glitter
of Old Crow and Thunderbird bottles but only
hoarse fog horns croak reply
from the East River. A hardscrabble voice threatens,
Leave the kid alone. He flicks the Lucky Strike
dangling from his lip at my tracker.
I skid past rows of brothels and flop houses
that cropped up like chickweed after the Civil War.
This is my city, a place that slips from grandeur
to squalor and back again. Maybe these hooded monks
relish their classless society; maybe once they were
suited gents who made a wrong turn like me
got off the Third Avenue El at the wrong stop
and never could fathom its rhythm again
as it rhumbas overhead robbing light
its simple music confounding as a Bach fugue.
Liz Dolan’s second poetry manuscript, A Secret of Long Life, which is seeking a publisher, was nominated for the Robert McGrath Prize and she has been published in On the Mason Dixon Line: An Anthology of Contemporary Delaware Writers. A five-time Pushcart nominee, she won an established artist fellowship from the Delaware Division of the Arts, 2009. Her first poetry collection, They Abide, was recently published by March Street Press. She is most proud of the offsite school she ran in The Bronx and her nine grandchildren who live on the next block in Rehoboth.
Photo from Referential Magazine.