Vox Populi

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Gerry LaFemina: Alphabet City

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.

Avenue A, NYC (Pinterest)

5 comments on “Gerry LaFemina: Alphabet City

  1. Eva Simms
    June 4, 2021

    Amazing ABC poem: it reads so naturally and flowing and you hardly notice that each line follows the alphabet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      June 5, 2021

      Thanks, Eva! I agree that its an amazing poem. An elegy for a lost love and a lost neighborhood.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jefferson Carter
    June 3, 2021

    Cool poem, the last line a little heavy-handed. I’ve also been writing poems about liberal guilt, lots of material to draw from!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      June 5, 2021

      I disagree, Jefferson. The last line is not heavy-handed, but climactic.

      Liked by 1 person

      • carter7878
        June 6, 2021

        Sure, I say tomahto, you say tomayto. It just seems the white liberal guilt doesn’t need to be stressed here. Cutting “& I knew I’d never be saved” would leave the climax slightly unresolved and up in the air, where it should stay.


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