Scott Laudati: “This City”

 
 This City
  
 I’m not kidding.
 I’m dying in this city.
 I was a prude 
 when thunder struck and 
 gave us memory of spring.
 But now I’m sick of eating 
 garbanzo beans
 saving for rent 
 so goddamn high
 even last year’s ghetto
 has a waiting list.
  
 It’s been too hot 
 to go outside this summer.
 The cats long abandoned 
 by breakups 
 and unrenewed leases
 snore
 under the dumpster,
 ignoring rats swimming for 
 cigarette butts 
 floating like 
 dead minnows in green pools 
 that stay deep 
 without rain.
  
 There’s a bum on my block
 I see sometimes.
 He sits on an 
 orange crate
 and doesn’t ask for money when
 Bushwick crawls home
 after last call.
 He doesn’t ask for money
 at noon when Germans
 ask him to point out 
 Roberta’s 
 on a map.
 He doesn’t have time to hustle.
 He’s too busy
 making drum loops
 on his cell phone.
  
 I said hi to him once 
 and he introduced me 
 to his brother--
 another bum named J Bird.
 He was chewing his bottom lip
 and told me
 “The pigeons here
 eat better 
 than most people.
 they’re fat as turkeys,
 stuffed 
 on the best pizza.”
  
 J Bird was an expert 
 on pigeons
 because he made 
 all his crack money
 off of them.
 He said he crippled 
 the birds with a stick
 and sold them
 (boxed by the dozen)
 down in Chinatown.
 An hour later
 the Chinese would put them 
 on the special menu
 as all you can eat squab.
  
 J Bird told me he must have 
 killed
 a million pigeons.
 But he never ate one.
 “They’re too dirty,” he said.
  
 I thought about the things
 I’d done
 to pay my rent
 in New York.
 All the bags I carried
 and the times even the tips
 couldn’t make
 my back feel better.
  
 You know 
 you’re dying
 when you envy 
 the pigeons.
 Beaten up 
 eaten 
 shit out 
 done.
 They tried to do that to me, too.
 In those hotels I clocked in 
 every day.
 A servant with no chains.
 They tried to do that to me, too.
 And they came close.
 I would sit with the housekeepers 
 on my break 
 and wonder 
 “Why don’t
 they
 just finish
 me off?”
  
 It was my smile
 I think. 
 I kept it on no matter what.
 Even when they asked me 
 to get them ice
 to touch their wives
 to touch them
 when we both knew
 there was 
 no tip coming. 
 I kept
 the smile on
 and they saw
 they could take 
 my back 
 and my time
 but they couldn’t
 take my heart.
 I either stopped it 
 from beating
 or 
 hid it very well.
 Sometimes I had to
 pinch myself
 to see if I was
 actually alive.
  
 I spent most of
 my shifts
 flipping between
 murder and suicide.
 Always one call
 away 
 from telling
 my mother
 goodbye.
 But then it would end
 like it ended 
 every day.
 The moon always low
 and the garbage piled so high
 you could climb it
 for perspective.
  
 I studied it all.
 It meant my freedom.
 It all did.
 Even the rats silhouetted
 at the base 
 of 
 the moon. 
 They were mine, too.
 We were all part
 of the city's refuse. 

_________________________________________________________________________

Scott Laudati is the author of Hawaiian Shirts In The Electric Chair (Cephalo Press). Visit him on social media @scottlaudati 

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