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 on Fridays at six,
T’get me a little cultcha, you know.

I apologize for that, I say.
But they won’t never put that stuff in the papers
or nothing ’round these woods,
Maybe in Africa or somewhere,
ya’ can be rich and famous.
But this is New York baby,
Down here folks want to be happy,
They read comics and sports pages,
And lottery picks,
you know, that kind of thing.

But forget about all that baby,
Tonight I want a dance,
Dance with me Kamara,
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 freaking donkey.
Yes, yes, tomorrow I will be full of surprises.

She knocks the radio hard,
Dead batteries won’t squeak music,
Radio time is 88:88,
Cigarette blaze 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 with a Styrofoam cup in her mouth,
Touching things,
she rattles a cup of hospital pens to her ears,
Her breasts rattle with her.
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,
There is a TV show that takes the sting away every Thursday.
She picks up a crumbled ball of paper,
Her head knocks the swinging bulb.
You’re going to fucking kill yourself in here.
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 think.

Write me a real long poem 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 fuckin’ show-offs.
The other writers are already finished 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 with so much pain,
It’s fuckin’ depressing.

I know these things.
Her wisdom is pouring.
I understand pain baby,
Ya’ red eyes, they tell me stuff,
Many men I know have red eyes.
Well that’s what being a man is all about
where I’m from — red eyes.

So tell me about it,
Tell you about what?
Tell me about ya’ red eyes,
Is it the wife? Yaa’ old man? Or are ya’ just broke as always?
What is Africa really like?
She collapses into bed, knocking things out of place.
The fluids in her big stomach mumble.

You can’t teach an old prostitute new tricks,
Not when a working thing has fruited.
I write for her son thru his night school at Brooklyn College,
She pays in kind at 2am,
and calls me 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.
Good intentions placed poorly,
It is the same reason people die and make the news,
It’s the same reason a child strangulates on a curtain string.
It is why I am stuck with this one.

Write me a poem Kam.
I am no poet, poets are dogs from hell you know.
Then what are you?
A muser — I write fucking musings.
You are not going to make it in this City.
She has the demeanor of a weed-whacker.

I inhale, take a sip,
Wisdom from the lips of prostitutes,
I imagine my death on a New York street,
You should consult the master’s great, I say.
Those ones will undo you.
By the way, who are the writing gods of New York?
Some chump from Brooklyn or Manhattan?
There are writers like rats here,
Millions of them, billions of them,
And there’s a bald Nigerian like you
Who reads with an accent at the Yellow Coven on 8th.
He stays to sign his covers.
He best stay out of my way then.

Write me a poem honey child, she says.
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.

Faces in broken windows,
Small children 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.
No.
Why not?
No.
Please.
Jesus Christ of Nazareth — no.
I have to take a piss.
She grabs my shoulder,
Not after you promise to write me a poem with my name in it.
Fine.
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 shady woman with green eyes thus beautifully gleams”,
Something with rainbows and flowers and night skies,
And then a powerful conclusion.
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 poor and lonely at Christmas,
That bald Nigerian beat you to it.
I know this, you know this.
There’s often truth on enemy lips,
Usually, liars make good friends too,
Jump off a roof.

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,
There is little calm and bright lights,
And nothing else is in one place
The radio starts itself,
And Josh Krajcik is bleeding a soul.

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