Plongeur

These fingers have grasped ceramic and glass,

turning and scrubbing dishes and instruments

of consumption. These hands have been immersed

in hot and murky fetid water, working and toiling

until the night has worn down to the final minutes

when hours of work must be finished.

The grime and grease of more than thousands

of leftovers stained on dishes must be obliterated.

These callouses break and reform through bleach and detergent,

these fingers have grasped plates, bowls, glasses, mugs, pots, pans, and every kind of utensil

imagined, cast away food half eaten, not eaten, thrown away food dumped in plastic

bags mixed with poison, for those just one step below to dig through and savor.

These hands have contemplated searching for sustenance, and so the mind

wanders, spine slumped over, the dish washing machine compact and half-working.

These fingers have ended nights with desire for a cold clean glass,

while the hand rests upon a common grail and ponders whose hands it has passed

through and ponders more the covenant between each proletariat.

That each and every person mind their own, and drink and sometimes moan,

but never belabor too much the plight of pointless labor.

Unspoken Consolation

This dog is a reincarnation of a reincarnation

of Allen Ginsberg because he’s mystical

and gives me queer looks.

He loves to smell piss and shit, and he’s beautiful

and black and white and if dogs were poets he’d be

the masterful, subversive beta-male.

Ginsberg stares at me thru big brown eyes while wagging

his tail, thinking about absolution.

Now he’s licking his penis and grunting.

Now a cat is sitting on my lap staring at the wall,

since he’s a reincarnation of a reincarnation

of William S. Burroughs, he’s crying on the inside

about murder, but not really feeling guilty. The animals have seen

it all before, but not for forever.

projects projecting

sitting on a metal bench with hands clenched
without anything inside on the speeding SEPTA
train Broad street line traveling north destination
Dauphin Susquehanna Station there’s something about the old pale man
shaking his cane across from me mumbling about the weather
reciting incantations in order to halt the impending snowstorm
my stomach is an empty shell
my head a cauldron
my chest deflated
“this journey can only end badly” I think
the disembodied female voice names my stop
I get out and even the station is falling apart puddles of rusty water
decaying walls slowly dying trudging humans inanimate death
everywhere and above ground
is no better I’m not used to this land
I walk up Broad two blocks while chewing gum and looking back
trying to find the skyline it’s not the same
I’m in a different world North Philly I’m fine with being
the only white person around got nothing to hide not even my skin
once I get to Cumberland I make a right and pass the auto body shop
filled with broken cars and only two men fixing them they look at me vacantly
most are abandoned get ready for everything abandoned
razor-wire on all fences dark red row-houses not homes
dark red decaying spaces
the corner of 13th street is oppressive w/ 4 story toppling warehouses empty
like everything else
a man walks toward me diagonally with a trash bag
now I’m afraid I’m not used to human contact
he stares and somehow sees me thru the wasteland
a man picking up bottles there are too many to pick up
too many punctured mattresses and plastic bags in vacant lots
piles and mounds of trash where does it come from there are so little humans
only trash
I only look back for so long now I’m underneath an overpass it’s dark and the hill is ominous
the bridge is green and I can’t hear any traffic there’s ice and black snow from weeks ago
all around and it’s nowhere else in the city only here with all the trash
how long is this gray wall
more abandoned lots and vacant buildings why am I here I should turn back I will turn back I’m lost
no I can only go ahead
tall boarded up buildings but now in different colors it’s beautiful a cat leaps down
the steep front stoop and stairs and comes toward me it’s pure white and it’s an omen it disappears underneath
another block I look down the street it’s taped off
there is a big dark stain in the asphalt only 20 feet away
nothing else
I walk faster a parked car there’s parked cars around now I walk and now I hear people
I’m happy to hear people but when I look
they see me as something else and I don’t want to intrude I’m sorry
I’ll just keep my head down
I see the high rises many stories tall brown and uniform there are two of them
parallel buildings I know exactly what they are at first sight
the projects projecting oppression
looming over me now but also over everyone else living here on every other day
I’m afraid but I don’t show it
I wish I could peer into this desolate landscape

but I can feel the stares

I want to hide my skin so I just keep walking eyes down seeing broken

pavement all of a sudden out of my peripheral there are children speaking violently with pre-pubescent and adolescent voices

they’re saying that they’re strapped are they talking to me I keep my pace

I feel the bullet pierce my back in microseconds
don’t look

am I dead it’s only imaginary why is it imaginary am I imaginary why
I don’t belong here no one does