New York Poem

I was feeling like the guy
who walks up and down my street
pausing on the corners
eyes to the ground
not knowing which way to turn

when a security guard
off-duty State Transit Authority
tapped me on the shoulder
eyes alight with bourbon
voice crackling like fire
fingers stained with nicotine
brow wet with September sweat

we shook clammy hands
he shared some pleasantries
my nervousness dissipating just a little
as he lurched away with a halfhearted wave
brown paper bag and bottle

down the block
the streetwise black kids
practiced lazy breakdance moves
in their casual tracksuits
a hip-hop crew of hoodlum dudes
doing a pretty good job at
coming across as menacing
which worked fine on me
the out of town foreign tourist
with the wrong white accent
and the backpack a dead cert giveaway
so too the crumpled map

better grab some food quick
before my all-night bus to New York city

Niagara Falls was awesome btw
looking over the edge
wondering what would it be like
to go over it in a barrel?

instead the bus had taken me over
the Peace Bridge into Buffalo
into the U. S. of A.
and I had cleared customs with ease
surprising considering the way I looked
and smelt

I used a $50 bill at a burger bar
bought food and soda for the journey
dumped my bag in the luggage compartment
almost fell off the bus steps
when this drunk guy pushed past me
offering to sell gold chains and smokes
on the way

I was leaving on the 9pm
ETA at NYC approximately 8.10am
arrived tired and disorientated
phoned Adam’s sister from a call box
who vented her annoyance at being woken up
and no she couldn’t put me up
and would I please fuck off
the phone line going dead

I bought myself a pair of moccasin ankle boots
from the Native American Tourist Shop at 8.30am
twenty three dollars and seventy nine cents after tax
decided to hole up in The Sloane House YMCA
on West 34th Street
in hindsight not the best of choices
but it got me out of the rain

my room was a cell in what appeared to be
a lunatic asylum for dropouts
freaks and lost travellers like me
turned out it was the largest residential YMCA in the USA
which explained all the nutters
didn’t dare use the communal showers

but man
the view from the top of the Empire State
was jaw-dropping
despite my camera not working
and the man with the warts all around his eyes
pressed tight up against the telescope
his wife clutching at his side

New York City – imagine that!
Tell me, what’s it like to be a skateboard punk rocker?
I borrowed those lines from Michelle Shocked
Wow, New York, just like I pictured it
Skyscrapers and everything

and I borrowed those from Stevie Wonder

WORLD TRADE CENTRE
BROOKLYN & HARLEM
STATUE OF LIBERTY
CENTRAL PARK
MANHATTAN

THE BRIDGES
THE RIVERS
THE DOCKS
THE YELLOW TAXIS IN THE STREETS

grand canyons
monument valleys
next stop FLA

all of which of course
means nothing much to anyone
except perhaps a younger me
who no longer exists
or recognises himself
in a mirror

 

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