Blue Light

Leaning against an old Chevrolet on Maudlin Street, I smoke a cigarette—hard—chuckling at the hisses and howls of alley cats beneath the butcher shop’s broken neon sign. They flick their tails and prowl about, pestering fellas headed home to cold wives and cold dinners, straight from the misery of their long evening shifts. Persistent, with purrs and claws—smooth as cream—they graze oily pant legs (and thighs) for want of a rub…or two. Tossing my smoke at the sidewalk—a cherry-bomb explosion drawing the glow of hungry eyes—a young, new one to the corner catches my eye, preening her strawberry-yellow hair, distracted by night shadows that stretch and duck in the periphery. I light another smoke and call her over with a “Psst,” motioning with my hand, as tracers from a flaming tip pull heads from her pounce in unison, to and fro. Cautiously, she turns to me, as the sign overhead begins to flicker blue, casting a harsh pallor upon angled faces with its undead light. Calling her over, again, she slowly heads my way—eyes shining and features soft. “What’s tonight’s special?” I ask, as she pulls the cigarette from my newly shaken fingers and takes a drag. Letting out a long sigh, she blows a steady stream of spite—sweet—into my face, and jabs, “A pound of flesh with a side of soul. Hungry?” looking as if she’d heard that line one too many times. “Nah,” I answered (a burn taking over my cheeks), “not tonight.” Then I turned and walked away down Maudlin Street—not looking back—wishing I knew her name, loving her.

Evening Machines

Painted ladies duck
from fiends under velvet skies,
‘round corners and doorways,

as God’s chosen saves
souls of passersby and
dogs in search of scraps.

Shirtless boys show’r girls
on stoops with shucks and jives to
clanking coins in cans

of bums, patrolling
slices of concrete, splashed with
piss and hot dog wat’r.

Street kids linger ‘round
liquor store fronts with fistfuls
of cash, cruising dupes,

for ill-gotten smokes
and cheap beer before managers
close shop for the night.

Electric lines crackle
and neon signs hum in the air,
overseeing the chain-gang.

Street Flowers

Night blooms push
through the cooling bustle
of footsteps
and concrete street corners,
unfolding, blue,
from sidewalk cracks
under streetlamp moons and
the twinkle of city lights.
Savage beauties
with perfumed petals
and shapely stems
pale against the night sky
and their nectared dapples of scarlet.
So delicate.
So sweet.
So thorned to the touch.
how they flutter in winds of
passing taxi cabs and
heavy-soled feet,
candying the air with
kisses and promises, ephemeral,
in lure of lotus-eaters
and forgetful exchanges
in dark alleyways.
The night
(and dance) are long
within the wall-less confines of
their cement gardens,
‘til the break of day and
heavy rumbles of delivery trucks
send them scattering—tattered and torn—
into the shadows
of their morning slumbers.