Posts Tagged ‘ode to NYC’

authenticity just screwed ya: underground reality

18 Jan



riff 11

when they say the bronx is burning
they’re talking about the yankees
but the bronx is always burning
and sometimes a baby dies
sometimes a secret becomes further hidden
he liked fiddling with the knobs
she was tired she was sleeping
into the cold night
a dozen    

Too Many Pens, Never Enough Ink

19 Sep


[favorite record currently, from the 14:31 mark]


from a political press conference to a literary interview to nothing at all

you gotta understand the gamut
Joe runs the game
and as the king
he allows Meeks the fifth as though it was a fiefdom
a bottle to drown down one’s AM ambition
and we all become too drunk to unlock the door
to our own freedoms
these knaves keep us stunned and humble
voting like a necropolis
hanging up
only works for bats, journalists and dying stars
it is not
a thing that lovers do
that’s why I stay on the phone
listening for her breath
like some renewed compassion
until the embers of midnight fade
into the blissful, new annihilation of a waking, screaming morning
and I know that she was safe for another night
after we wake up
and you’ve already gone to the bathroom
to put on your makeup
before getting back into bed
then I’ll likely
need another drink
like last night
when I first saw
that you can’t save me
from myself and everybody else
Leo McGarry never ran too quickly

Unsaved Changes Will Be Lost

24 Jan



the joe torre years


my city is a yankee fitted

the Sea & Sea Fish Market that doesn’t sweat its name’s redundancy because of the line out the door for the fried whiting and chips at three dollars a plate

my homey Pinky died twelve years ago next week, unbothered by the irony that he used to scream out fifteen-for-life when I walked down DeKalb to meet him towards Knickerbocker

years before, of course, the Nebraska gentry decided to send all their kids to become artists on this block

my favorite mug’s got the fiesta of New Orleans on it

I ain’t ‘ever been, but I’ve got a few silver dollars for the piggy-bank to snort, should be coming to by the time the bus arrives to pick me up

my liver’s spotted

marked by heavy years, heavy underpaid years where I pretended stoicism, pained pretended stoicism, a cocktail helps to get the time across, you see how the sunlight moves across the doorway, when you’re guarding the bookcase home alone

my smoke is golden

grown in honey humboldt, even though it decays the roots, I won’t have it any other way, when it burns it distinguishes itself, when it burns I understand it

my mind is an inn or an urn but something keeping

some part sleeping, like some encroaching warring lightning you can see from down the shore

my desire has become a vacuum

has learned to nullify itself, to inhale deeply in some method, some measured manner to expose, expunge then reenlist the world

my millennial wait, like mercury in the vein, waiting to perish

moonlit in her

I spin and see nothing but darkness for my second lifetime

and this waiting is vaguely spiritual and kind of dull

auroral in her

I breathe in the smell of her hair, but I’m afraid to hear it because I fear that it has gone all antiseptic, or not, what if the smell retains a memory

then the question becomes – can I handle a memory

and that’s why I don’t like questions

which is a shame, because there’s nothing much else to do, run them around, underneath the yankee fitted

my prayer is never heard and never uttered

but has existed long ago, and will exist until there’s nothing human left, until they clean the clutter, until there’s nothing left to mutter but

            alive, awake

                                    alive, awake

                                                            but even then, only to remember

there’s nothing really left to do but to surrender, to her, to the world, to a schedule, to a nook where silence is magnificent, to matches shaking in a matchbox, delighted for the chance, it doesn’t matter, just surrender

take a deep breath and let it go


08 Apr



failed metamorphosis (from paper-weight to paper-weight)


“We’re lost, but we’re making good time!”

– Yogi Berra


to be quite honest,

a majority of my writing

is much the same –

it hits along the same tropes,

chronicling the same lies and exits,

the same conversational gambits,

the same pruriency and prescience,

the recollections sorrowfully unforgotten

matted melodies along the same detours

I’ve ridden through before

over and over again in the same bad-beat melancholy

always at the same pace

the mileometer on the dash says we’ve passed either a century

or a couple of happy hounds, a hundred miles each

they whine and spit bloody when the wind coils and clings

around the soul and starts to sing –

them too, the songs –

I’ve repeated them before as well,

a bar tab and a bottle will inevitably sync into the scene  

a cigarette or something else that burns

some sweet betrayal bewitching, the best there ever was

it was just a fit of good luck

maybe a fix

(my daddy used to be a bookie and was highly proficient at these things)

green eyes

a Catholic inside a jukebox

she took me to the cab

she took me in the cab

and I tipped the driver well

he had endured

and drove silently pretending

to follow the cricket match broadcast on the radio

I couldn’t take her panties off all the way,

but that’s another story for another time –

my point is, my dear shiny empty people –

it all repeats, and will again

and I with it

some New York skin

just getting old and tired and new and old again

there was an accident along the drive

two people died, the third labeled critical

I don’t know where they were buried

or what happened to the faulty miracle

or what they were talking about

            listening to right before…

my hands were calm


they moved her torso over me

circular motion, revolutions

I came before we made is past Morningside

I felt condemned to all this permanence

but we were home

her home, but still

we had arrived

I tipped the driver through his opened window

well over twenty percent, I do believe

lies and exits, yeah, it’s true

again, again, it seems

green eyes

blue eyes

gray eyes

what were they when they were forever

or singular

or final

I want to get there


but it seems doubtful that I will

ignorance ain’t bliss

it is a willful murder

my old, cold kingdom for a fucking toothpick

and a way to do it

            to write it virginal, exposed

yet I repeat again

there’s no escape

it is the same

all same

green eyes and curly hair

ruffled by a long cab ride back to the river


That one could use a scotch… (the icecube melts)

14 Nov



a volleyed example of class warfare for the honest and the rationally-paranoid


plenty of classrooms, plenty of graveyards

all overcrowded

trying to make room

waiting, gloomily, to be privatized

then sold off piece meal

by a handsome man wearing an expensive tie

bought at Barney’s with a black card

while another black boy

(alumnus of that very school)

gets handcuffed and paraded out

past the oohers, aahers, oglers and cashiers

for forgetting his stoic disenfranchisement

instead of a squad-car

they sit him beside me

in a casket half-full

of wasted promise and compromise

both of us becoming shadows of the world

taught (in that very school

where we were classmates)

that shadows

are merely ghosts and shade

mingled then subjoined

to make monsters out of monarchs

and fellow fearful shapes           


(NYC 2013)


Oh no, did that hit crazy stairs?!

11 Nov



In Transit


            A woman, this morning on the subway, softly whispered “hey” into my ear, and then, before I could capture the home of the voice, she disappeared, and I turned in every direction to find her, but all I encountered were grimfaced commuters heading off to Tuesday-work, the worst sort, and Chagall wearing plebeian overalls, with the collar up, painting the waiting doors in varied blues and scarlets.  


            Somehow days passed yet I was still traveling. The smell of peasant melancholy hung in the air and on my clothes like layover smoke or smirking Northwestern smog. The animals walked by my feet in a miracle’s haste: the dogs looking for discarded scraps; the cats looking for tasty vermin.


            I had to transfer to the 113 bus to get home from Jamaica Center. The man seated in front of me on the bus, overcrowded by Sunday night errands, was taking swigs from his paper-bagged Crazy Stallion (which for easy public consumption already resembled an Arizona iced tea can, likely breaking some copyright laws), barking out solipsistic conversation in the dry interims of his trip to some fresh ghost he discovered:

            “Relax, I’m driving the bus, and I’m about to make a right. Get the fuck out of here!”

            Now, I drink a lot, the folks around here are well aware of this, but somehow I’ve never spoken to myself on a bus loaded with impassive pilgrims yearning for inland.

            “My wife! She breaks my balls, Susan, I really feel like that. What am I doing now?! I’m fucking driving!”

            He was balding, in his late fifties or early sixties, carefully dressed in cheap beige, khaki hues, with a gracefully maintained military moustache standing in salute above the memorial cairn of his upper lip.

            “My wife owns everything, except me! Why do I pay my taxes, I ain’t paying my taxes anymore, I’m somebody and I’m Greek and I know this! I’m Greek but nobody else is. I love her, but why do I pay my taxes if the fire department wakes me up when I’m sleeping.”

            He took another sip from his malt liquor can. We were nearing Mott avenue, so I requested my stop, closed the compartments of my bag, and waited to ease further into the migration of the welling night, full of the strange and tired and slightly beaten. The man kept talking as I stood to leave. He enjoyed his conversation partner, and I figured that none of us can ask for anything more.

            A beautiful dark-skinned girl smiled at me and we both left the bus together after I pressed the molting yellow tape for the backdoors to open.

            Behind my shoulder, “I am what I am. I’m a good man, but I’m a lonely boy.” Indeed.


Antiheroic (No Control)

15 Aug




Solitary Confinement and The Mystery of a Well-Crafted Sentence

(for all the prisoners)



            This story will be a bag of oranges falling to the floor.

            This story will be colored by the same cerulean waking as a last vacation morning.

            This story will be about a woman I once loved.

            But I will not be the hero. I will refuse that honor to someone else, someone that doesn’t write because he doesn’t need to. He will be average: of average build, average intellect, a slightly above-average bank account. No bad habits: while I drink enough whiskey to turn my blood flammable, he will remain sober and uninformed, no B1 supplement to keep his liver running; who needs to run when you can pace?

            Someone innocently left their wine glass on the tabletop for much too long. A crimson, oval stain remained. A secondhand (the nationalist amongst no nations barking) and wholly uninvited writer writes about it in a manner resembling a gift that kept on giving, despite having already made a hoarder out of you, the  reader; with room to breathe slowly ebbing off into the ether, he then decides to contrive an addendum to the detail, tying this mauve haloed blemish to a long dead Russian realist. He does his best to deprecate the other author, though he himself relates to the dead realist merely with the minute literary tangentiality akin to the manner in which bathroom limericks relate to Shakespeare.

            The janitorial service and I will remain here mopping all of it up. We, who were always fond of the Dark Lady sonnets, especially – but you would know that if you were familiar with my work.


            I have grown tired of all these cruel women.

            Leave them. Leave them. Leave them for the heroes of the story. They are headaches for the protagonists, not the tertiary characters like me. My royalty rate can’t afford to jewel their tiaras, all I can do, maybe, is a used copy of The Princess Bride on DVD, bought downtown at J&R before it goes out of business again.

            Or maybe instead of a presence,

            I will instead become like a literary version of hydrofluoric acid: I will have all my characters melt inside of me. That sounds immensely comforting somehow.

            Firmament to terra firma is in a single bag of heroin, as long as they don’t cut the shit out of it as it changes hands, but a cruel woman can kill you more gracefully, and much quicker, than that fall.

             My little homey once asked me why the coke always makes him shit, to which I informed him that it’s likely because cocaine is casually cut with baby laxatives nowadays. He snorted another line in the bathroom stall and nodded, “shit, dog – you must be right”.

            Lenny once told me that they (whomever these magical they are) don’t let a woman kill you in the tower of song. So, it’s a tower, huh?! I fucking hate climbing.

            An unkindness of ravens watches me from across my window. Better than owls. A parliament of owls. Much too much screeching. The ravens remain silent. Only six of them, as though they travelled like crows.

            There’s too much time in these moments, and far too many of them, they leave you grasping for ways to remain, sane and trudging along, collecting memoirs, becoming but a sketch of a human being that suffuses the narrative strip.

            The truth is, they’d tell you to go to hell, but they never want to see you again.

            Another drink and the floor is lined with fallen citrus. The smell reminds you of a film, and of how easy it is to disappear into the credits. The birds are watching.

            The azure light seems electric and reviving, but eventually you know it will become the neon glow turned off soon after the amicable barmaids announce last call. Afterwards, you might think that you’re walking out into a new morning, but really this is just a story, and I hope that by all the gods that have ever existed or have ever been conjured up by good intentions, that you don’t become the hero of it. Because, as a hero, yes, you might have a bed to share, but it is one that will soon grow cold, as soon as the last sentence is written well.



An August Tuesday

06 Aug



Brooklyn night


With legs

proudly ringing of the algedonic destiny

of wind chimes

stroked by stalking zephyrs

stoked on by weightless majesty

her hair swept along the contours of a horizon

long distant and wary of the night

colored like freshly bloodied cream

after the tragicomical seppuku performed by the forlorn spoon

(following his Steve McQueen-like escape from Prufrock’s clay dungeon this past Wednesday)

the stars looked down on us

like creditors

alone and longing in the Brooklyn night   

and we became a divine reciprocation

soft-flickering and ancient lights

to warm the firmament of silent gods

a retribution along a thankless journey

crowded by

cowardice, coincidence and commonplace

and yet

alone and longing in the Brooklyn night

we found a romantic route

along which her legs sung

a melancholy, adroit euphony

to merit distance with its unique meter

from Fort Greene to Park Slope

from Brownsville to East New York

from Bay Parkway to Kings Highway

past strangers and a weeping cemetery

past coffee shops and urban strip malls

past parking lots and old mistakes

we walked

as meaningless as lovers

as smart as pennies on the floor

and we arrived

all bitter and unbroken smiles

            to commiserate the dawn


a constant flirtation

11 Jul



train music (two lines only)


the anarchist girls hold on tightly to their yoga mats

they smell like brown sunshine and dirty lavender

stained dishes in the sink and college loans

they arch their feet on the subway platform waiting

they all say that I lost some weight

but I don’t think so

I just tell ‘em

that I cut my hair

and replaced my beer with bravado and sleeplessness

starving down some food stamps

and then the train comes

as it usually does

slightly behind schedule

and I get on

because I enjoy this routine as it coils through the city

and the opportunity to read

in ninety minutes I’ll be home

An old bluesman strums something sweet

on a guitar handled by many fingers

in the back of the train car

sitting next to King Lear

quietly sleeping off the next performance  

Something about his melody made me want to weep

but I thought better of it

and speaking of the theatre  

I heard that they’re putting up

a revival of Le Regard du Jourd in Paris

the curtains open silently next week

it’s worth mentioning, but I won’t be going

I’ll probably stay here

ride the train awhile

and think of you

as I tend to do like a lonely little beast

coming up with rhymes in my head

from the noises I see as brilliantly as summer colors

curved like similes and red wine

something like a liturgy for empty spaces

and the one that came today was brief and honest:

“there’s an element of you

in every soul I listen to…”


One for a Lost Friend

14 Jun



darling heart


“A poet makes himself a visionary through a long, boundless, and systematized disorganization of all the senses. All forms of love, of suffering, of madness; he searches himself, he exhausts within himself all poisons, and preserves their quintessences. Unspeakable torment, where he will need the greatest faith, a superhuman strength, where he becomes all men the great invalid, the great criminal, the great accursed–and the Supreme Scientist! For he attains the unknown! Because he has cultivated his soul, already rich, more than anyone! He attains the unknown, and if, demented, he finally loses the understanding of his visions, he will at least have seen them! So what if he is destroyed in his ecstatic flight through things unheard of, unnameable: other horrible workers will come; they will begin at the horizons where the first one has fallen!”

– Arthur Rimbaud


come to me

someone who’d become

the darling heart

opening my epistolary

my glamorous dark beauty

of angelic vices

with a severe haircut

starting trends

like middle-class fingers start grocery lists

moving me to write something new

against myself

against that self I know so well

when I get characteristically lazy and bored with aspiration

and want to hide in bed with a bottle of cheap gin

and the breadcrumbs of an empty meal

an ashtray and your distant legs

somewhere along my ruin  

sensate no longer

like when a young friend dies tragically

on a wild and lonely night in Queens

(a frenzied flash through Flushing)

and people meet to barter their embrace

to struggle with compassion and finality

and all I see is the nonsense of posterity

in every line I strive to write

on this fresh and fickle morning

poor enough for an effective adulteration

ambition and failure interlinked

enough to make you want to abandon all

like some childfaced symbolist waiting to turn thirty

after a season in hell left him to search for further illuminations

pondering the words and their hypocrisy of treasure

lost in a cultural coincidence

a brutal bit of luck and clever marketing

like will-o’-the-wisps that promise splendor

to weary travelers long lost along the marshes

so here I sit

in heavy coughing breath

so barely steady and barely sober

waiting for something to make sense

waiting for you


come to me and make it better

try to make it work again

in a new face with new eyes incandescent

the aching heart of my epistolary

a madness to help the poet see


(For the memory of our friend Kiyanoush “K” Asif – rest in peace to the illest mc not to be…)


On My New York Shit…

16 May



Q52: a short lyric


they haven’t touched the bridge in over eighty years

that’s why

after the hurricane snuck in

the trains don’t run over it no more

you have to take the bus across Cross Bay

and in those thirty minutes that you have

after waiting in the cold huddling in around you

you’ll sit on a hard and angry seat

watching the world like a weary guest:

the old Russian women talking too loudly on the phone

that they barely know how to operate

in a language that all other passengers

but me

do not understand

and after the call is done

before the next appointments are to be made

their bodies will tenderly convulse

because the nearly dead are made to dance

for our forced mocking sympathy and our amusement like the dole

the men that stand pace anxiously

in the two step space that they’re allotted

before a workday becoming prison

leaves them slumped along the railing springing  

like the wheels below along cement

the pimply adolescents and their pockmarked older siblings

read books they were assigned

while futile anger and frustration rages in digitized decibels

from their headphones

the aging allochthonous junkies who still make the trip

have come to pay their servile and pitiful respect

to scions of their old connects

from stories of seventies’ glory days

when shooting galleries replaced alleyways

and the cops didn’t have to pretend not to give a shit

the young and pretty neighborhood girls

they’re sitting, waiting, too

crosslegged and small and nearly blue

or gold, sometimes I cannot tell

because despite our same path here every day

we have all been detached, completed, from ourselves

these people just like me

are all I do not know too well

but try to meagerly

because this ride is the same one along which I’ll return

until the bridge is fixed

and we aren’t broken

lonely anymore


(for Claudia Rankine)


Visions of New York

13 Jan



Visions of New York


The city has become a titan

a relic

of the past

The city I remember no longer pounces,

but only dreams its comatose surrender;

The city I remember

had red-faced drunks asleep on public buses at two in the afternoon

had crafty addicts coyly collecting ravaged cans

for rewards measured in nickels and nods

The city I remember

had lovely women with messy hair and wild eyes

had boastful men who hid their wives like scars

had memories all on its own

The city has grown thin

like a terminal case with chemically-eaten cells

there is still skin, but no geography along the belly

The city I remember

was a long skirt and the smell of coffee

was a swastika on a misguided punk goosesteping along Astor

was an underground effluvium seeping, thick, above 

was an unwanted sanctuary

an abortion of childhood mistakes

a girl becoming a desperate mother

a boy becoming disillusionment

a staircase to nothing much

a lovers tryst that suits regret

I wonder where she is in this new century

this new plateau for the acrophobic

I wonder if she lives again

I wonder which city holds her door


Jack Tsoy Tumult

Morose Pontifications and Other Poetic Ramblings

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