... men and women of the night
and doughnut shops
where life crosses,
in and out
after and before
life mounted on sugary dough,
where coffee drips for hearts of tin,
guts of steel maternity
stolen from everywhere,
from halfway between here - and -
I, there, seeing, hearing
writing: "Heaven... often... not -
writing things halfway between why - and -
- "Heaven often is not found"
while time shuffles tails and whiskers of itself,
where the waitress stands in cotton print identity,
staring, counting, pouring
as she stolidly jockeys drops of acrid aspirations
which seep through the seams in her hands to porcelain
and beyond to shadows of
echoes, doughnuts -
- holes, the soul of hard
guesses and questions -
- "Ya' need a refill?'
... windows rattle the frightened night -
- "Naw, don't need one yet,"- off-duty, now, and
hanging over the counter
his need hovers beneath her seams in hope
as he speaks above a graying beard
which seems long enough
to tickle the bottom of the coffee pot when
part-time, he, too, tends the doughnut shop -
- "But phee-ewey!
it really is getting' windy out there, ain't it!
sho' wish it'd rain, though!"
"You want rain
and I want to know,
do two broads have to live together
or sleep together before they're lespians?
Somebody please tell me,
What's a goddam lespian?"
"What a question, Denny!
and it's lesbian, lesbian, not lespian!"
''Shee-it! Lespians, lapdogs, hussies! What's the diff?"
... the wind clutches at numbed glass and skin...
"Well, if I have to match
your ignorance with coffee refills,
it's no skin off my back!
you pay for both,
but why don't you get a damned job
instead of coming in here night after night
and throwing a 'hard one' over those poor women?"
''Poor! my ass!"
"You really hate them, don't you?"
"Shee-it! Love, hate,
What's the diff!"
"At least they're really there," the *grocery-cart woman mutters,
from her corner, unheard, without doughnuts,
and how she does it, since she has no castle of her own
and the sign above her vigil screams:
"NO SLEEPING ALLOWED, EVER, NO EXCEPTIONS!"
is a matter for those who play the odds
on pain and guesses
and the dignity
still penciling her face
beneath the streaks wintering her hair,
a dignity as pulsing-real
as the college girl passing in the street -
- "Wha'dya think, Joey,
ya' think she's a pro?"
"Naw, Denny, too fresh-looking," and leering jabs
of elbows into ribs
fail to rupture the warp and woof of the bone and marrow
which stretches between `lespians,' pros and college girls
behind prison bars of grocery carts
filled with the rich vomit of disdain.
"Hell, you wanted rain, you've got it! Christ!"
"Damn! You a weather prophet or somethin', man?"
"I wouldn't be jackin' my jaw about nothin'
if I was you, Denny,
after the way the lady told you off
a minute ago!" - seeking a refill, now,
graying-beard steps behind the counter,
"And that goes double for you, Joey!" -
he returns to the barstool side of commerce.
"Hell, you ain't no weather prophet!
You're a goddam Pentecostal preacher or somethin', man!
Who put your friggin' saddle on crooked, this morning,
"Save it for the apocalypse, Denny,
you're going to need it!
Say, by the way,
your shift is about over, isn't it, girl? - he leans toward her
across the counter
for they both
jockey cigarettes and lighters
when other bridges fail.
She accepts the flaming: "Yeah, when the other gal
When's your next shift?"
"Five-goddam-thirty in the morning!
Christ, I have a friggin' twelve-hour shift, tomorrow!"
"Je-ezus, that's awful!" - her smoke forms
rings of disconnection.
"Ya' ain't ****tin'!"
... "five-thirty, that's when it was,
at least I think so - a long time ago," the grocery-cart woman
answers an inner cycle: "A long, long time ago -
- my pen stutters: "Heaven... often... not"....
then dipping and bowing
to the pogo-ing of streeted raindrops, it finds stride:
"Heaven often is not found
in far-off places
but stares us in the face
like plate-glass windows" -
- "five-thirty... yes, back when I was real,"
the grocery-cart woman's fingers tattoo time,
"Tah-tee-dum, tee-dum-m, tee-dum-m, tee-dum-m,"
though not the pattering of rain
nor thudding steps
of souls beyond the edge,
but the half-singing of She who's come
to relieve the Other She
who waits for a younger script of Self - Herself -
- "tah-tee-dum-m, tee-dum-m, tee-dum-m,
would you like a refill now
or wait until I make a fresh pot?"
"No, thanks, I'm fine,"
`My, she sure is pretty,' my mind wanders from my pen
to the younger waitress, `A lot like piano-woman
whom I cared for long ago,
was perhaps in love with,
I don't really know,
She probably didn't know,
I don't think either one
of us really knew -
- O muse of hammered strings
O robin-breast of soul-mate deep connection!
Where are you?
I am waiting!" - but why are graying beard
and She in cotton print still here,
why don't they go home'?...
... black, acrid gulps of hope
my pen seeks delirium of ecstasy
in that which has been, is, and will be:
"Reflect Heaven in yourself,
reflect and go in peace
and all will be well, will be well"...
"So, ya' leavin'?"
"Yeah-h, gotta' be goin', girl.
See ya' tomorrow night,
You take care, now - okay?'
And so, into streeted pogo-ing
Perhaps his graying beard
will be long enough to tickle laughter from the sidewalk
where life crosses,
in and out
after and before...
... and the coffee is meant for hearts of tin.
* (The imagery of the grocery-cart woman was inspired by and is in tribute to a real-life homeless woman who lives out of a grocery cart at doughnut shops, the bus station, library, and often, by standing for hours in the lobby of the post office at night).
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