THE TACO BOYS
The mice loose in garbage bags like maracas
keep me awake, one hand on my broom, the other a gun.
Man as a nocturnal creature is my page
colored in The Picture Book Of Life Before Apocalypse.
There's enough food to last me until the end,
more for the mice. I don't leave the house anymore.
I go out on the roof, listen to the Taco Boys
trading porn magazines and motorcycle farts
in the alley, barely and tantalizingly out of range.
Been working on staying awake while dreaming,
seeing the purple beauty while washing the dishes.
Been touching the clouds and outerspace.
I like this. The slow time, the Bolero of clouds,
the smooth trigger, the shingles dusty against my back.
Taco Boys is the tenth poem out of thirteen
in a sequence
entitled "Horizontal Dreams in our Skyscraper Eyes" about Philly.
working at this coffeeshop where I had to be at work at 5:30 in the morning,
so many nights were spent in anxious insomnia, slowly counting down the
possible amount of sleep I would get if somehow I managed to get to sleep
that exact instant. Coming from the west coast, I had never had a rodent
problem before, but there was a grip of mice who I'd hear, running around
and yelping during the night, which just added to the whole desperation
the scene. So this poem was a sort of fantasy of breaking off from work
and becoming a semi-enlightened curmudgeon. I'm not exactly sure how to
explain the "purple beauty" but it comes up in a few of my poems,
perhaps meaning something a bit different each time.
REFLECTED BY CRUSHED ALUMINUM
The pet stores are never open, but on trash day
broken-down boxes lay outside, stacked like skulls
in a bone church, washed up sideshow barkers
advertising marvelous freaks inside abandoned tents.
Bums trade strange auras and fake alleys,
places that make your whiskey turn bad.
No giant map explains it all, just muttering crazies
who rub parchment in their pockets with stained fingers.
Week old city snow melts into the invisible world
throughout this stubbled neighborhood
where the hot-dog vendors sell more than footlongs:
maps inside buns, branded with grease.
There are codes more intricate than spy novels,
dependent on inflection and body language, not word choice.
The smiling, round Italian with a bell on his pizza bike
has extra plastic bags in with the breadsticks.
Each kitchen has a dozen dark secrets
that the drunks who used to work there are quick to tell
like pirates recollecting why their vessel sank.
Lips shrug and boots clank against the bar.
This city is dirty with shadows, soot covering
tax shelters and worlds under the subway.
There are dreams painted by needles,
sailors who were knocked out but never Shanghaied.
These are only my first thoughts, alligator
shoes and pressed slacks catching dim light
reflected by crushed aluminum cans, walking up
the dirty subway stairs into the other side of town.
At first, this
poem was just about this pet store that was never open in West Philly
(40th and Ludlow) by my friend's house. I'd usually get on the subway
at 11th and Market in the early evening, and it always seemed to be dark
by the time I'd get out at 40th and Market. I'd walk by the pet store
(I never knew the name of it, but it said "Live Exotic Tropical Fish"
on the side, which always seemed hilarious to me) and wonder about it.
I was working at a used CD store and was slowly learning about the vast
Philly under-the-counter drug trade, in addition to the large amounts
of stolen goods that were fenced through such buisnesses. Coming from
a rural background, the many levels of intrigue and crime that exsisted
in the city fascinated me. This poem is the 11th poem in the "Horizontal
Dreams In Our Skyscraper Eyes" sequence, which in turn is one fifth
of my manuscript, I Am Five People.