Video Confession On Vacation In New York City
It has been a nice vacation
in New York City,
sitting in the bathroom, with two
silent angels. Their bluish hands
almost match the faded roses in the
other room. Unforgettable. Lifeless.
Like hair growing underneath your skin.
(My vacationing mother many times has
told me that dying doesn’t hurt.)
Some people say the human body is beautiful.
Some people say the human body is ugly.
(My vacationing mother also explained
there are two distinct sexes.)
Everything here is covered in plastic.
That makes her cleaning much easier.
“You’d better hurry!” I said.
“Cleaning up a room after you is like
doing a spot check in hell,” she said.
It has been a nice vacation
on my side of the room.
But her coughing keeps me up at night.
“Are those ants in your bed?”
I ask. There are cockroaches
waiting behind the mirror,
and a man in the form of a dog,
walking below on the street.
Before this vacation, I told the chaplain
that I don’t believe in a personal Devil.
“Stop looking out the window!”
she says. Later, I eat some
chocolate candy that I find
near where that strange “dog”
was walking. That old man lying
there against the building, he
could be dead or he could be
resting. “I’m sure he’s just resting,”
she said. “The candy is good for me,”
I said. “Finish the rest of the chocolates,”
she said. (My vacationing mother eats
everything in sight, everything in sight.
My vacationing mother would
murder for a piece of cheese.)
The derelicts near our hotel
are, I swear, drinking something
from cans of motor oil,
drinking it as if it were water. One of
the older bums says to me, “We’re killing
all our children.” Cancer strikes 1 in 4,
she tells me. Take a number, I say.
All those street poets are queers, she tells me.
I guess only qualified applicants need apply,
I reply. (My vacationing mother laughs nervously.)
It’s like I’m watching all this on a
giant screen. I’m wondering
if we could be murdered in our beds
tonight. Take a number, she says.
Why would an old bum say,
“We’re killing all our children”?
I’ll be glad when we get the hell
out of here. As soon as I find her,
we probably should just leave this
filthy hotel. It has been a nice vacation.
It’s all recorded here on my mother’s vacation video.
Originally published in Love Poems for Cannibals
Raymond Keen was educated at Case Western Reserve University and the University of Oklahoma. He spent three years as a Navy clinical psychologist with a year in Vietnam (1967 – 1968). Since that time he has worked as a school psychologist and licensed mental health counselor in the USA and overseas, until his retirement in 2006.
Love Poems for Cannibals, published in February 2013, is the author’s first volume of poetry. He is also the author of a drama, The Private and Public Life of King Able, which will be published in 2015. Raymond’s poetry has been published in 30 literary journals.