Five Lines for Lola

Say Kamara,
That’s the thing about you,
She jumps from the mattress,
Your poetry,
I listen to yaa’ stuff and it makes me want to cry,
I come to yaa’ readings, Fridays at six,
T’get me a little cultcha, you know.
All I gets me? More tears.

I apologize, I say.
But they won’t never put that stuff in the papers
Or nothing ’round these woods, she says.
Maybe in Africa or somewhere safe,
Ya’ can be rich and famous.
But this is New York, baby,
Up here, folks want the happy’s,
They read comics and sports pages,
The lottery picks and cafe boards,
You know, that kind of thing.

But forget about all that baby,
Tonight I want a dance,
Dance with me, Kamara,
Dance with me, my love,
Get up, show me how Africans do it.
C’mon, get off your fuckin’ lazy ass for once.
Tomorrow night, tomorrow let’s do that, I say.
You’re such a donkey, she says.
Yes, yes, tomorrow I will be full of surprises.

She knocks the radio hard,
Dead batteries come off and radio time is 88:88,
Cigarette crackles low,
Blue smoke spread across the ceiling.
Read me something then, she says.
It’s too late for that nonsense.
She floats around the room naked, a Styrofoam cup between her teeth,
Touching things, she rattles a cup of hospital pens to her ears,
Her breasts rattle too.
She drops a chain of keys.
Kicks a spilling laundry bag.
Dance with me Kam, c’mon,
Sit your ass down,
Sweet mother of god,
You’re like a fucking dragonfly.

The foreigners in the next room giggle and stomp,
A TV show that takes the sting away sneezes.
She picks up a handful of crumbled paper,
Her head knocks the swinging bulb.
You’re going to fucking kill yourself in here, i say.
She starts to read a terrible line in pencil,
Dodging the swinging bulb on occasion,
What’s this word here?
— pre-, presci-something.
Well, that’s why that poem had to die, I say.

Write me a real, long one Kam.
I write for fools, if fools can’t read me, then we are no different.
You know, I hate them big words, she says.
Them big words are like smelling your own damn pits,
Such a fuckin’ show-off.
The other writers are already dead sweetheart,
Nothing you can do for them now, I say.

She whispers her bad reading and thinks:
Damn this man is some god of some unusual wow,
Good grief, you write such sad stuff, I love it.
You write such pain,
It’s depressing.
I know this pain, her wisdom purrs.
I understand pain, baby, she says again.
Ya’ red eyes, they tell me things,
Many men I know have red eyes, I say.
That’s what being a man is all about
where I’m from — red eyes for the win.
So tell me about it,
Tell you about what?
Tell me about ya’ red eyed people,
Is it the wife? Yaa’ ugly old man? What is Africa really like?
She collapses into bed, knocking things out of place.
The river in her stomach rumbles.

But you can’t teach an old prostitute new tricks,
Not when a working thing has fruited,
No when her life has bested yours in misery.
Not when you write for her son thru his night school at Brooklyn Mass,
Not when she pays in kind at 2am, and she calls you baby.
I keep a key under the mat,
She shoves a gallon of juice in the yellow fridge on Wednesdays,
I get brown eggs from the grocery store.
Not when good writing is loved badly,
It is the same reason people die and make the news,
It’s the same reason a child strangulates on curtain string.
It is why I am stuck with Lola.

Write me a poem Kam.
I am no poet. Poets are dogs from hell you know.
Then what are you?
A muser — I write musings.
You are not going to make it in this city.
She has that demeanor of a weed-whacker.
I inhale, take a sip,
Wisdom from the lips of red smudge Lola,
I imagine my death on a New York street,
You should consult the master’s great, I say.
Those ones will undo you, I say.
By the way, who are the writing gods of New York? I ask.
Some chump from Brooklyn or Manhattan?
There are writers like rats here, she says
Millions of them, billions of them,
There’s a bald Nigerian like you,
Who reads with an accent at the Yellow Coven on 58th.
He stays to sign book covers, she says.
He best stay out of my way then, I say.

Write me a poem honey child, she says.
Or I will set this curtain on fire.
I do not write for the likes of you,
I write for dogs, are you one?
One what?
A dog?
Good grief, you would fuckin’ like that, wouldn’t you?
Me as some dog, right? God damn pervert.
She says, flogging a pillow to shape.
Faces in broken windows,
Small refugee eyes in dark verandas,
That kind of nonsense,
I write for those ones.
You’re a strange strange man,
You might make it in this city after all,
This gladdens me somewhat.

She turns around and says,
Write me a poem with my name in its title.
Why not?
Jesus Christ of Nazareth — no.
I have to take a piss.
She grabs my hand,
Not after you promise to write me a poem with my name in it.
Fine what?
Fine, I’ll write your fucking poem, Christ.
Don’t say fuckin’ honey, you say it weird,
Trust me, you bring out my best.

“Whatever Lola wants, she gets”,
I start with a pencil on the back of an invoice.
I write her a quick one,
Five thunderous lines,
“Oh ye shadow woman, green eyes thus beautifully gleams,”
“Something with rainbows and flowers and night skies,”
And then a powerful conclusion.
“Sweet wine, she drips.”
“For a savage come far from dreams.”
I hand her the love letter.
I tell her not to spend it all in one place.
She glows and flogs another pillow.

As I piss and smoke, I think:
Nobody’s gone read you, you old fool,
You might die cold and lonely come Christmas,
That bald Nigerian beat you to it.
I know this, you know this.
There’s truth on enemy lips,
And liars make good friends too,
Jump off a roof, or stay useless and cool.

Lola is fast asleep now,
You would never know in sleep,
The stuff she is made of awake,
I look out the window, hands in deep pockets,
A little calm, I see legs, bright walking shoes go by,
With nothing else is in its place,
The radio starts itself,
And Josh Krajcik is bleeding a soul,
His lover has done it again.


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