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.
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 the New York skyline.
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.
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 breathe is a small struggle.
Her head misses the peg-legs of the parrot man,
The man who shallows fire and glass shards 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, they live forever.
That gypsy luvs him a dead parrot, so he is already toast.
But this nigger don’t know why.
She points to my head.
Nigger don’t know why?
Nigger don’t know why.
And Ike ain’t never coming back for me.
But trust me, you all gon’ drown.
You all gon’ die, sweet pea.
The Nigger, the rat, the gypsy and Ike.
Sleep drags her to the frozen pavement.
The winking gold lights from poles steal darkness in circles.
Soul and bones hold the cold.

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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