These mornings, you're not sure
what will wake you first:
the smell of cigarette smoke
sifting through a window screen,
the hushed voices of men
in hard hats sipping coffee
or the high pitched beep beep
of trucks backing down streets.
You roll out of bed, click off
the alarm a half hour before
it rings. By the time you start
to brush your teeth, jack
hammers are digging deeper
to build higher and keep pace
with rising rents, the changing
neighborhood. It's easy to think
of the late 70's and your grandfather,
the last white man left standing
in Bed Stuy, sitting at the head
of the table with his hands clasped
as if in prayer talking about
his long gone days, complaining
about the coloreds taking over
and your god damn long hair.
You recognize fewer and fewer
people as you walk the ten blocks
to the subway. No need to nod
hello, stop and talk with anyone.
Almost overnight, everyone's grown
younger, thinner, richer, whiter
and they all own dogs or nannies
who push strollers built like tanks.
You miss the corner candy store,
the Deli next door and its thick
Italian heroes. The newsstand
still guards the subway entrance.
You went to school with the owner
and you're both scarred by the names
of nuns and Franciscan Brothers
who tried and failed to beat
any sense into you. Head down,
Tom's changing a creased twenty
licking his ink stained fingers.
You're staring at beautiful women
as they buy bottled water, check
cell phones and text messages
to men and boys nothing like you.
Was it the day before yesterday
or as far back as twenty years ago
that you could slam that window
shut and return to bed, lie with Erica,
Suzanne or Helen and the only things
that entered your mind were breakfast,
whether the local theater was showing
the movie you were dying to see
or maybe you would quietly get up,
step across the room and put on
some sweet soulful morning music
and do it all blessed day long?
She'd rest her head against your
chest, play with your softening cock
and you'd talk about schoolyard days,
books, songs, hitchhiking cross country,
the first time you almost had sex
and how you could stay here forever.
You'd laugh, whisper and sometimes
talk out loud about building your own
world, how everything would fall
into place gracefully, never thinking
about your grandfather easing closer
to death, afraid of feeling left behind.
From The Last Lie