SITTING ALONE AT A BAR IN HARLEM, NO ONE TRIES
TO TALK TO ME AND I REALLY APPRECIATE IT
I order a beer before the bartender
can say anything and he doesn’t seem
mad about it, just blinks and nods—
my kinda guy. I don’t mean to be
rude and he gets it. A series of police
cars zip by sirenless, lights soaking
the bar, briefly. I don’t wonder where
they’re headed— I sip my beer
and feel the ground shake slightly,
rattling me like a small panic attack
as the 2 train rumbles downtown
full of people I never want to meet.
The room grows more crowded
as the minutes lean heavy towards
midnight. I spy a glass of whiskey
under the counter by the register
that the bartender sips on between
orders and fake smiles when he
thinks no one is looking—
and no one is looking.
AT THE CHINESE GARDENS WITHOUT YOU
I have the bonsai tortured into their beautiful
smallness, small lives, smaller deaths.
These gardens were made for poets to come
and concentrate and write in peace.
The sky is as open as a fool, and the zen air
is amplified by the obscenities
of a homeless man reaching over
the high concrete walls. In the pond’s
thin algaed waters, the smallest koi
is dead, glinting in the sun like trash.
Photograph of Ariel Francisco by Carlie Hoffman.