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September 18, 2023

New York, 1979: A Collage

By Mitchell Waldman

New York City, 1979: A Collage

Wayward nowhere to go ragged
men with fertilized grizzled
faces, bulbous noses
one eye hollow, the other attacking
come up to my car window
I roll it up
he spits at where my face
would have been
he bangs gnarled hands
for a buck
a wash of my red light windshield;
somewhere a bomb goes off
the cockroaches stir,
rustling for the cracks;
garbage heaped in streets;
they destroyed Rome too;
hot pretzels sold through
a drunkard's eyes;
skirts and skirts that
cling, fit just right;
preachers on the streets,
on the radio selling mouthwash;
"fabulous, fabulous Manhattan!"
sushi bars with elfin dark-haired women
drinking rice wine
it's hot hot hot
eighty bucks the bill for two
while a block away the Bowery Boys
search for their night time enclave
crack in the building;
Lady of Liberty,
a boat ride through dirty waters
an elderly black bag woman retching
on the deck
while the tourists smoke smiles
and blue cigars
"what a life, what a life;"
They hit you everywhere
the streets pulsing red veins
of humanity that don't stop
will deck you if you stop
it's the city's neurotic life;
and hot dog vendors;
taxicab parades;
a poet in the Village
selling me a book of rotten
poems for a snap of the flash;
Paranoia -- the city runs, grooves on it;
Point the lens at a crowd
they scatter like KGB flies,
Point it at a man and a bottle
on a bench with one eye open --
he'll come up after you,
blubbering with a knife;
"New York New York,
I love New York"--
Times Square and
a hooker on every corner
"We're here to serve you!"
and the pills and booze
being passed from hand to hand
in the city's parks
the cops with their "Move alongs!"
and flashy batons;
Central Park, ah yes,
Frisbees flying in the daytime
while English carriages run at night
they come at the pretty gay boys
with baseball bats and scythes;
The Bronx -- burned out shell
of Famine, world's champion Yankees
and death;
Uptown -- Madison Ave., ties a-flying
like horse whips in the wind,
the fragrance of Chanel Number Five
well-shaped ankles with mounted feet
Downtown -- ain't nothing there but
the end, the bridge to sail away.
Subways, Kosher delis,
Little Mexico, Empire State,
Little Italy, dirty laundry hanging in
China Town, chilly town
from a window; the garment district,
flunkies rolling racks,
Broadway, two-teethed ragged woman,
selling pencils a nickel a shot,
Salvation Army boys ringing bells
in front of EJ's and it
ain't even Christmas --
the churches, beautiful, archaic reminders
sucked between the windowless
metal monsters of progress
(they can see out but you can't see in)
children, tiny little tykes
hustling on the streets --
"Shoe shine mister;"
"Buy some weed, man, it's baaaad."
And I wonder where the center is
wonder where the heart's dug
as I grab with bloodied hand
the old man's knife
and stick it in
stick it in good.

Article © Mitchell Waldman. All rights reserved.
Published on 2012-03-19
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