New York City Poems
By Francesca Marais
Shortchanged 5th Ave Blues
his hands stroke the warm brass
as his fingers orchestrate a sultry
the dehydrated leaves now Halloween orange
begin to confetti from the trees
next door Central Park playing piper
to the stoopers moochers
MET and museum enthused
while their arms whip for their phones
his lips purse into harmonies that could
put a snake to bed
the stoopers crowd the staircase
and passersby confetti change
over a hat
his posture adjusts in an
New York at his feet
unexpectant and lifted, his crowd’s
mouths speak a quiet breeze
they envision a viral uncovering of
his image doubled in vivo and
Insta-televised on the latest iPhone
zooming in from the top staircase
the musician now a 45 degree bend
dipping into his well of history
he kneels into a crescendo
the cameras, magnets gravitate
the musician towards them and
the shot is reeled in
our jazz man’s pursed hum frowns
even though the melodies
sing a joy from his youth and of
deep love for his woman his family
begs to be seized and another
phone captures the blistering
we envision a 10k following
discovering uncovered ground
jazz a new beat only found
in the city where
everyone comes to eat
his back turns and we lose
the portrait but his pain is there
his clasping fingers pressing
into it with another sound and
his eyes hover over his
A warm bowl of kitchari to teach you to sit still
Dieting is the second highest
contribution to consumerism.
but unlike the rest of the
21 day programs and elimination of
this, that, and try a keto diet,
fast intermittently, give up eating
while-you’re-at-it diets, fads.
This is a lifestyle, humbling me
with its rice and grains
ingraining memories of the warming
meals grandmothers’ hands made,
waking a sleeping me by crowing cock
somewhere on some farm
far away from these concrete slabs.
The slow rush to greet the hidden sun
behind haze over the Hudson, united me
to my thoughts of hunger
for something deeper
a meal nor my tastebuds couldn’t
distinguish - cheese,
honey, chocolate, not even gum,
Not even wine crossed my mind
as I moved slowly
in the race to transform
my mind and body.
Given up on the demon and
angel trumpeting in my ears
as I chugged a beer or shut the alarm
or ate a cookie after a bowl of
I gave thanks for the bowl
of kitchari more deeply,
I obsessed with the floating
notes of a jubilant spice market.
down my cheeks as
my nose caught a whiff of the warm
bowl of kitchari.
I heard the angel speak to the
demon asking when I’d grab
for a slab or a pint.
My hands fidgeted with anything
they could find to quieten the noise,
and I laughed alone outside myself
recognizing the fixation for more
movement in and around me.
Beside myself with wet face and
stuffed mouth; I thought
mad or suffering withdrawals
was I, but
just realised all the
channels were turned on
with the volume maximized.
Beams on the empty streets
I don’t even recognize
The echoing of the sparse yellow cab
In the distance, honking
Barren sidewalks where
I walk down directionless,
No one around to shuffle past,
Bumping in to remind me
That time waits for no one in this city
Where everyone comes to eat.
How long has it been since
your birds were able to sing? Since
The fish jumped out of the East River
To come up for air? Since your skies
Weren’t shadowed by the remnants of
Congested roads on the Holland-Tunnel
Or Washington Bridge, trying to make it
To work on time or back home for dinner?
Since I didn’t need to scream
in conversation to my friend next to
Me on the subway? Like you, Manhattan
With your surging energy,
I survived on Laughing Man coffee to
Fuel me from my day job
To my effervescent East Village -
Williamsburg parades, only
Sleeping to sober its memory
Like you Manhattan, I thrived in the
Spaces foreign minds like mine connected
Overlooking the New York skyline at a
Limited pop-up happy hour venue,
Recalling the names of the ten
New faces while swimming in the
Tiki themed cocktail menu I’ve consumed
I need the noise to drive me so I don’t have to find what ignites me And potentially fail at it without even having tried
I need the noise to drive me so I don’t need to face that I came Here without purpose
And you’ve worn me out
I need the noise to drive me so I don’t feel lonely
Is that how you feel? Now that all the Peters
Who called you home, have left now?
You are free from entertaining a story
Your trees can now breathe.
That was the name of our team
And I was maybe six or seven,
Bending over to tighten the laces
On my “takkies.”
Butterflies cocooned in my insides
As my head cocked on
My crouch reversed into a stance and
Like a precursor to victory
I recognized you -
Round eyeglasses, wide toothy smile.
Your eyes beamed through the lenses
As my shuffle galloped
Your arms outstretched in
Praise and pride
Like a bet won on an unassuming
Thoroughbred to make first place
- I dove
Into your embrace.
Putting down the trophy
You lit a cigarette between
Your fingers, pursed your lips and
Drew, gazing out the left eye
While I attempted to move
A life sized white knight into the
Black hole space now laced
With traces of smoke you
Left behind from
your box of Champions.
House = school team names used for student body participation in sports, etc. in South Africa
Takkies = local term for sneakers, trainers, running shoes
A hint of adventure
Remedies her cooling heart;
A lioness watching its prey
She makes no mistake
In her advance
Still a 1980 American Citizen Dream
Thank you, America, for teaching me
About a dream and the extents
That I will go to achieve it
Finer things and fickle
To my heart’s deepest desire
To roam the deserted parts of the globe
Away from humdrum in the machine
You gave new meaning to sex and longevity
And harmonized notions of romance, modern romance
A silk film on screen I wear in the sweltering summer heat of the west
And inner cities you’ve reared
The colour of my skin giving me new meaning
The identity I already thought was confusing melted deeper
Into the pot of your vague appropriations
Friendships old renewed after decades
Learning progress through due process
Without it you WILL NOT SUCCEED
An undying gambit
A gamble on a dream
But most of all
My mother who shook her own world
To make it here
Battling institution and reverse racism
Support by the hour for your dollar
Scrubs on since 1980
That brought her all the way here
And still she won’t do it
But maybe one day she will
But begs why you’ve been so
Harsh and fang baring
To someone who’s supported your dream
Since before I was born
New York City Poems
By Tom Pennacchini
A Bay Wolf in the Apartment of Eagles
Come the dawning
Regardless of mood
To take some moments
in the morn light of my room
vibe and shimmy
I do the spasmodic
Amusing me self
The reflection of my Moves as
in the Van Gogh prints
On my walls
I Got It
A Rock’n’roll kid
Get to Gone
Regardless of mood
This is my private morning
Fuck It All
There is a squat/stout duffer in a windbreaker and a Mets cap on the outskirts of the park
playing a rickety 5 string and hoot ‘in and holler’ in.
I have no idea what he is singing.
There is no discernible melody.
Every now and then he stops/ freezes/ puts his forefinger in the air
to take some sort of measure
before plunging back into his flailing guitar.
After another stuttering burst he will stop/
then let loose with an elongated cry to the sky/
punk operatic/ style
nobody seems to stop/and listen/he does not have a container for contributions and probably would not get much trade/
he is playing/for his own/self/and that is / enough
It's/utterly senseless/ wholly out of key.
Beyond the realm of anything/
resembling cohesive musicality
yet imbued with an innocence that casts proficient excellence into a pallid light.
His songs/ performance/ like life/ a messy and inconclusive/ thing/
You can have/ your polished practice and Carnegie aspirations/
and make of that an evening/ with class
but I like the way this codger lets her rip/
this ragged chanteur/
airs it out/ no class/ no talent/ but lotsa / style
Shine on oh perishing republic of dreams
oh community of outcasts
Art in the essence with no need
for product or commodity
Convivial souls rabid rebels minds afire
Provincetown dunes Christmas Eve
Greenwich Village the 20's to the 50's
Innocent fervent glass of beer cafeteria a quarter
Shine on oh perishing republic of dreams!
Bustling old fella dashing biddly bop by dressed to the nines
with briefcase stuffed under his arm equipped with fixed maniacal grin jabbering to himself while confirming his expressions
to an equally jazzed and jaunty westie he calls Ralph trailing exuberantly behind
lets me know
that there are actually still some living beings out there
to learn from
Whenever I am in a roomful of actors (christ don't ask) I am buffeted and overwhelmed by waves of nausea
for some truly baffling reason they identify as artists but never discuss art
they do however love to dither on politics and dish presidents oh and
movies natch but Rembrandt or Brueghel nahhhh
They are ostensibly interpreters of script but never discuss literature excepting Shakespeare which they have been dutifully schooled upon
(what the fuck - - art and ... school?)
shame can be a necessity (we're people after all)
where's the sense of it?
Put In Place Out of Place
I have been shut down occasionally vis a vis my mutterances on the street corner and while attempting movement on the frenetic city sidewalks
I like to do it in order to sort of clear a path and in order
to facilitate and free up navigation-
at times I'll say "I gotta do a little bit a that swivel and swerve" - or as I zig and zag out a maneuver - " just the slip n slide" whilst moving and weaving thru the throngs
Other times I'll emit a bit of a shriek
Announce constructive critiques regarding their aptitude for city walking like
"Another dolt - doing the diagonal "! - admonishing the herd - "I am begging for mercy "! "Good heavens - cease and disperse the cluster "!
Their compass clearly needing alignment (my god do they drive like this?) -
Must make sure that shit is correct! I am trying to move freely goddamnit!
"I gotta circumnavigate stone agony"! ... "Becomes imperative "!!
Perhaps I'll be clogged by a stroller
"Nightmare in perpetuity "!
A Yammerer on the phone AND a stroller-
"You know they're out to torture"!!
Then there are the odd times in which I need to be schooled -
One time I was loudly griping about a construction obstruction (it is all over and everywhere) and a yob kinda bloke said " its NY - Stop complaining"...
I readily complied.
Another time I was wading through a crowd announcing, "I know my babies ain't shy" whereof a charming lass turned to me and demurred "How do you know I'm not shy?"
I fluttered - gurgled some kind of non-sequitur before feathering and loping off.
Well perhaps I'm not a confrontational sort but there you have it
just trying...trying to move along.
New York City Poems
By Mary Durocher
Chelsea Hotel #2
A sparrow perches on the subway platform at 36th Ave. I’m alone and waiting for the W train. I can’t keep track of each fallen sparrow. Leonard Cohen wrote that, not you. Wait, no, it’s, I can’t keep track of each fallen robin. The song is about Janis Joplin. In an interview Cohen said he regretted revealing that Joplin was his muse. Mostly because of the song’s reference to her giving him head on the hotel bed. I think being a dead robin is worse.
The sparrow darts off into November’s bleak sky. I can’t keep track of each fallen sparrow. I watch its silhouette shrink and I remember the crows that circled Mt. Haystack’s peak when we went in June. I was Joplin and you were Cohen. I teased you by loudly labeling the crows as an omen. You stared in awe at their formation. I was always too expressive, with my feather boa and unruly locks. You were always too silent, consumed by your meditations.
I don’t know why I envision this. You and I were not notorious lovers. A piss-scented subway platform is not the peak of a mountain. Riding the W train is not being with you. A sparrow is not a robin. Neither of these birds are Janis Joplin.
The seer of the Lower East Side
sways on a corner,
crying to New York’s
Her mascara drips
and cakes into her skin,
black stockings snagged,
her party dress swirls
in the rotten breeze.
Swarms of men,
fresh from their glass houses,
pass her unholy pulpit,
breath hot and sharp
their taunts burst at her feet.
She and I are not similar.
I am an adolescent,
a blurred outline.
She is ablaze and immune,
a myth with a chipped tooth.
When the visionary sees me
she grabs my hands.
Angelic, angelic, angelic.
I yank away.
I reject her now.
I reject her still.
Her shadow is following me
down Orchard Street.
It darts across
wounded in fury
at my inability to see.