Alive: The City
In the summer heat, the friction of feet melts the city’s asphalt to sludge. A mammoth wave curls over Broad. Cocoons pigeons and taxis. Engulfs cardboard boxes, condos, and their inhabitants. Folds into itself. Layer upon layer, an onyx monster takes shape. Its subway-rail veins rattle with the cries of men and church bells, the rhymes of children on rusting swing sets, the questions of women, the sinking clink of ice in a glass. Life. Blood. The giant greets the retreating clouds and meager sprouts of green burst from its armpit, nook for eagles to rest and squirrels to shit. The beast tiptoes toward the harbor empty of fish. No one to play with but the rats, bankers, and waitresses, rolling in its syrupy skin. Sometimes they swim, sometimes they drown.
Bloody Tissue on a Subway Station Stair
How did you come to grace
this stage? How many people
witnessed the spectacle?
Your role in the show?
Was the red inkblot soaking your fibers
spreading to pink around the edges
a signal of defeat?
A brawl gone too far
in a crowded subway
car? Your entrance an offhanded pass
with eyes cast down and fingers
that dare not touch?
Or was it sickness, cancer, cough? A pulse
craving liberation from the body’s closing walls?
A red river’s jail break turned suicide mission,
droplets running against windpipe, chasing
single points of distant light?
Was it a nosebleed, cut, silly
mistake? Was it picking skin raw
to give the heart rest?
Bloody tissue on a subway station stair
from whose pocket, purse, sleeve,
hand did you emerge?
Were you a gift from a man, homeless
with a cup of copper?
Taken from a bathroom?
Purchased from a local gas station-grocery store —
dual purpose, full service? Bloody tissue
on a subway station stair
stay away from me. You terrify
with your compassion
in a city tree.
Its bare branches shivering
as the train passes.