Poetry: Alex Stolis

We Look & See

I am erratic, a man without skin. I have given up believing
in night and my soul pinches at the thought of harvesting
ideas. Ideas like the mesmeric effect of insinuation
on the flat surface of a river. Ideas that any song that is sung,
out of tune by a nicotine-stained man who stands outside
the window, can be heard across an open square. Once,
in a hospital room far away from suitcases and friendships
of the middle class, there was a chance and maybe a choice.
Now everything is faded past in the mirror of books and dust
that lies thin and plastic on my coverlet. Two more drinks
ought to do it. Ought to be enough to wash the stink of morning
into the street and down the alley. The phone rings. One. I wonder
if the voice on the other end has any meaning. Two. I remember
a cream colored napkin with a phone number. Three. She said
her name was Lucy but the scent of her hair said Rita. I forget
for a moment there is no way to stop a bus from leaving
the station and once the smell of cigarette smoke gets blown
into the wooden slats on a forlorn bench it is time to go home.
Half way through four it stops. The silence is raw like innocence
when it is left to dry on the sidewalk after a hard rain. I should know
better but I pick up the phone and listen to the dial tone as it buzzes
and then beeps its way into the soft core of midnight.

monosyllabic love song

we could have gone anywhere—

down the street to the package store
where dreams are wrapped in amber and soft clear light,

to the end
of the story where that girl in braids
you crushed on in the fifth grade
works at a library

rides the subway home to a two room walk up
and cries herself to sleep.

the sun is moving away and the street begins to cool
down, soon the moon will own
the avenue and blind eyes will trade up
and down peddling their wares to buyers
who don’t know what they need

on the corner, a woman in flats
and a black sweater changes her mind
about the weather

she cups her hand against the flame,
smiles at the man next to her—
the wind tastes of sulfur

and I am a myth, a hostage falling
into the gap between desperation and opportunity.

Days and Deeds

There will never be enough rain to whet my appetite
for what comes next, another drink won’t fix the hole
in the wall and another cigarette seems a waste of good
fire. There are days with deeds that are better left undone
and plans better off left unspoken. The Number 5 glides
down the street, the thwack, thwack of wiper blades
and the mean hiss of hydraulics drown out the sound
of drizzle against my pane. Last stop. Last chance.
Better make it work, baby. This one is for the world,
for the earth-the sand that shifts beneath waves and waves
of mutilation. This one is for streets crippled by cabs intent
on pulling the sun forward because time doesn’t know
reverse. Don’t tell me we aren’t dying because even stones
stuck between the tire tread can feel the betrayal. Go ahead,
cruise down St Francis, watch women dance in the windows
while the moon lays ground work for indecision. Piece by
broken piece the day will reassemble itself—the alleys, shiny
from greed will lose their signers and hustlers, morning
will tuck them into tight corners where even the wind gets
lost. On the corner there’s a bus stop and in that moment
between ticks of the clock I can hear the answer you’ve been
looking for. It doesn’t shine and it’s far from smooth;
it’s crooked and won’t bend no matter how many prayers are said.