In Manhattan again, in the midst of midtown businessmen
& women with briefcases & designer sunglasses
I stop at D'agostino's where I buy two apples,
two blood oranges & two apricots. I am not
hungry. There's the R train downtown
to Canal Street, Chinatown's sulfurous tip.
I walk East & South in blocks
to find this place I've been many times
before; as always I bow to the Buddha
& to the old woman who sweeps the floor
& to the monk's creased bald head.
He is a walking wick, aglow, in his silence.
I place two apricots, two oranges &
an apple before the statue. There's enough fruit here
already– grapefruits bigger than my fists, mangos,
bananas. & what of my other apple?
I gave it to the rag man bound for Brooklyn.
How he eyed the fruit suspiciously, holding it
up to the artificial light for sixty long seconds
till finally he bit into it with a spray of sweet juices
that christened his chin, golden in that yellow glow.
Mmm, delicious, he said, delicious like a mantra;
rocking southbound, seventy feet beneath those streets.
A Week After Gandalf's Burned Down
At the Princess Diner a few volunteer firefighters drank coffee
& drummed thick fingers against their table.
One flipped through juke box songs despite an out-of-order sign.
No one spoke of the boiler explosion downtown
last week, though they still wheeze its smoke.
Their teen aged kids walk the streets after class
talking CDs & Friday night parties with lit cigarettes for kisses, &
shopping for thrift store clothes & other bargains. In J&S Pawn
they watch as my fingers caress the curved bodies & lean necks
of guitars. In America we buy & sell,
sell & buy. I'm searching
for a tone I know– simpatico–
the way those kids seek the right
retro shirt, its perfect blend of paisley.
The one girl with the khaki canvas bag has an FVFD patch
safety pinned on her jean jacket right above a hand-
painted anarchist A. By how worn it is, it's been there awhile.
Seeing it, does her father smile as she heads out late
into the distorted drumbeats of a friend's car? Does she
pray for him when calls come in, the way her mother taught her–
silently? I'd heard him say he worries: She's so thin, like a
the waitress patted his shoulder,
and I envied that gesture
reserved for regulars. In the pawn shop I play a few tremolo-ed
on an old Hamer someone more desperate than me, with my solitude
& pocketful of cash, sold months ago.
Despite being out of tune, its sound stops us all:
the two clerks, the girl & her friends, even me.
The notes seem to glimmer in the store's still air,
so I don't see what she slides into her purse, something small &
not very pricey I'm sure,
but she smiles, so we're co-conspirators
now. It's got great sound, one of them says.
You should buy it. In America
the kids shrink into the brief
foot traffic of every Main Street,
& these are no exception–they're already small dark forms dispersing
into the bell song of the door's opening & closing. They'll walk
right past the burned out husk of that tavern
with no recognition
as birds gather in the boarded-up window frames of its upper floors.