Rats & Gypsies

New York is something,
taken with a broken heart,
she whispers.
Falsetto whistle in her gullet.
Medals in her tobacco teeth.
Fingernails of lost boys etched on her face.
Is this why your blind dog lost another leg?
I ask, of the woman with the marble eye.
Whose dog? What dog? She rouses.

We are rats, she swears.
Fucking rats and gypsies,
Dogshit sniffing dogshit.
Hacks.
Except you.
Not you.
I smile. I draw near.
You niggers are worse.
I frown.
You know what’s worse than a rat and a gypsy?
She turns to ask New York.
A nigger, that’s what.
She bows for the applause.

Do you write – write poetry?
I talk into her left ear.
You sound like one, she says.
She steadies her marble eye.
You even smell like one.
Poets?
Rats, she says.
Crawling through tiny grooves on a well-laid cake,
She coughs up blood and fingernails.
Her real eye flickers in sleep.
Her lips tear apart.
Black saliva cascades.
Her powder breathe, a small struggle.
Her head misses the peg-legged of the parrot man,
The man who shallows fire to feed his parrot.

New York is something,
When taken with a broken heart,
she whispers.
I am no nigger, I would have you know.
I am – wait for it – I am African. I whisper.
Surely, that’s worse than a nigger,
She tells New York.
She rises for a speech.
Buttons crash to the pavement.

You know what’s worse than a rat and a gypsy?
Worse than a rat and a gypsy and a nigger on a sinking ship.
The rat is a New Yorker rat,
That gypsy luvs him a dead parrot.
And this nigger don’t know why.
She points to my head.
Nigger don’t know why?
Yes.
Nigger don’t know why.
And Bob ain’t never coming back for me.
But you all gon’ drown.
You all gon’ die, sweet pea.
Sleep drags her to the frozen pavement.
The winking gold lights from poles steal darkness.
Soul and bones hold the cold.

I pry a blanket lose,
Without legs, dog and woman don’t run well,
Christ on a bun, a two-legged dog!
And yet, at hotel and bed,
I am but guest and slave.
In sunshine and sleep,
Gypsies laugh in my dreams,
And this nigger don’t know why.
This nigger don’t know why.

Image credit: Josef Koudelka’s Gypsies, Revisited | http://time.com/3781384/josef-koudelkas-gypsies-revisited/

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