Rats & Gypsies

New York is something,
taken with a broken heart,she whispers.
Falsetto whistle in her gullet.
Medals in tobacco teeth.
Fingernails of lost boys etched on her face.
The bruja woman owns a marble eye.
We are rats, she swears.
Fucking rats and gypsies,
Dogshit sniffing dogshit. Hacks.
Except you.
No, not you.
I smile. I draw nearer.
You niggers are worse.
I frown.
You know what’s worse than a rat and a gypsy?
She turns to ask the New York skyline.
A suit man flings half a burger
Her dog awaits her approving nod.
A nigger, that’s what.
She bows for the applause.
Do you write – write poetry?
I whisper 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.
Then her good eye flickers in sleep.
Her lips tear apart.
Black saliva cascades.
Her powder breath, a small struggle.
Her head misses the peg-legs of the parrot man,
The man who shallows fire and glass shards to feed his pet 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 – 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 from SoHo, they live forever.
That gypsy luvs him a dead parrot, so he already toast.
But you, nigger don’t know why.
She points to my head.
Nigger don’t know why?
Yes.
Nigger don’t know why.
And Ike ain’t nev’r come back for me.
But trust, you all gon’ drown bigly.
You all gon’ die, sweet pea.
The nigger, the SoHo rat, the gypsy, and Ike.
Sleep drags her wig to the frozen pavement.
The winking gold lights from poles steal darkness in circles.
The souls and bones of the vagrant hold the cold for us.
I pry a blanket lose,
Without legs and sight, 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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