A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature
Avenues A through D, Lower East Side, NYC
After the ambulances left but before the sun finally rose above Avenue C, I walked toward Tompkins Square Park where the heroin- dependent rockers slept, addled on benches, while ex-punks huddled in their leather jackets for the morning was still damp. One of them called out, Gerry? What was I to do when I saw her, recognized her hesitant familiar eyes. How could I have imagined things would turn out this way when I'd call out her name - Joanna - those sleepless nights of high school & kept a photo of her deep into college. Longing has such a sense of history. Morning was approaching in its colorful coat. Not once those months of kissing her, had I wakened beside her, but oh - I'd wanted to. She was thinner & glanced away when I nodded pigeons surrounded her bench but would take off quickly with the first sudden movement or when the next squad car revealed itself in flashers & sirens. So what did I do? What could I do? The three five dollar bills folded in my pocket, what use were they to me? I gave them to her, she who'd once been beautiful. How victorious I'd felt that first time I kissed her. We didn't look at each other, nor did we look askance. I thought of the little xiphoid syringes she might load with that money. This was my sin. Two young black kids with dreadlocks walked by singing Zion! Take me back to Zion! & I knew I'd never be saved.
From Vanishing Horizon (Anhinga, 2011) by Gerry LaFemina. Included in Vox Populi by permission of the author.