44th and Broadway
She seems to be pushing the white wine
and then I realize she just needs
someone to talk with about her life
in New York City; how many countries
away from Bulgaria? We talk of Sofia,
the red-tiled roof buildings, so different
from the flat squat dingy buildings
she sees every day out the train window
on her way to Astoria, and back again
night after night to Times Square to a bar
cum trattoria where she serves strangers
glasses of red and white wine, bottles of beer,
and vodka drinks; New Yorkers do seem
to love their vodka drinks. At that moment,
the hostess screams. The bespectacled
manager in white shirt, black vest jumps
up and runs over to squash what to my
jaundiced eye seems to be a giant roach. I ask
the short, dyed-blonde with the black jeans
from Sofia about the roach and she tells me
that every week, every bar, every restaurant
in Manhattan sprays for bugs, that every week
one shift begins with removing all the bottles,
all the glasses, all the ice from the bar
and after spraying she places them all back
together again. I look at my glass, no ice,
just white wine and I look at the place where
the ice lives, and I think for just a moment
a bad thought then I turn to this bright-eyed
resourceful young woman who works
three jobs, has a degree in advertising
from Bulgaria matched with an incredible
will to survive in New York City, and I drop
an extra five on the bar and bid her goodbye.
Westerly (Aus) print issue 55:1
If I could step into the past
through Alice’s looking glass
which portal would I pop out of—
maybe August ’88 at Carver’s
graveside in Port Angeles
Tess by the headstone
dressed all in black
hair tied back in a loose bow
eyes moist not from the damp
’94 in San Pedro
I’d be the invisible guest
at Linda’s house after Buk passed
Locklin there taking it all in
and a sundry crew
from present and past
what would that be like
as I imagine being in St Pete
in ’69 when Kerouac filled the bowl
“Stella, I’m bleeding”
left in a surge of sadness
and loss ma mère nearby
wondering where did this go wrong
or maybe in her head it was right
or the year before in San Miguel de Allende
Cassady in a coma along the tracks
another casualty of what’s been called
by some the beatific life
Do you want to dance?
A new job and an after work party
at The Short Stop—down and dirty,
raw intimacy, Tom Petty’s
“Don’t Do Me Like That” blaring
from the jukebox,
I’m drinking a Beck’s dark
watching a couple trying to dance,
watching the bartender water down
a G&T for a heavyset bottle
blonde in her fifties.
The music quiets to a waltz.
Do you want to dance? she says.
She’s dark-eyed, dark-haired
with very smooth skin. Her slim body
encased in a sculpted lime green dress.
I look at her soft lips, lightly colored
in a warm red. Sure, I say.
The music floats around us.
I don’t know she’s married.
I don’t know she has a three-year-old
and an older son from an earlier time.
I just feel her swaying easily in my arms.
Two drinks later we’re back at my place.
The lights are low,
Grover Washington cuts a smooth groove
in the background.
She slides out of her dress
with nothing underneath.
The night sky lets out a soft sigh
and after in that quiet time
when thoughts kindle and hope rises,
she starts in about her marriage,
about her life she has to change,
fear driving a wedge in the core of her brain.
She tells me of her husband’s connections
with people I’d rather not know.
It could have been something.
Marc Swan lives in Portland Maine. Poems coming out this year in Gargoyle,
Mudfish, Chiron Review, and Nerve Cowboy, among others. His third collection,
Simple Distraction, was published by tall-lighthouse, London, England in 2009.