On St. Patrick’s day
the New York Post
was printed green
and I got fired.
It was a Wednesday, payday,
and I got paid and fired
and I stumbled out of a gray windowless warehouse
into drizzling and puddle strewn Brooklyn.
I folded the paycheck into my pocket
and I looked at three P.M. Brooklyn
with rain on brick, rain on tar,
gouged holes in the street, rubble barricades
in the doorways of condemned buildings,
dead objects in piles, Haitians standing
against brick tenement walls under ledges
out of the rain.

I walked to the subway.
I stood at the top of the stairs
and gave one last look.
Cars went up and down Eastern Parkway.
The bank was closed. The check cashing place was open.
The numbers hole was open.
A cluster of black men stood in front
of the yellow numbers storefront.
The words Bolitas and Combinations
were written in red across the yellow.
Under the awning of the deli stood more
black men. It continued to rain.
I went down into the subway.
I took the B.M.T. to Atlantic Avenue
where I changed to the double R.
I rode for an hour until I was in Queens.

As I opened the door I knew the place was empty.
There was an onion on the table. No signs of life.
I walked through the narrow railroad apartment.
I threw my coat over a chair.
I sat down in another chair.
It was dark, the apartment was dark and I felt myself
get suddenly weak as the cars hissed and swam by
downstairs in the street.

My next door neighbor, Ed, started singing.
I listened through the wall as he sang three notes.
There was something he was trying to do with those three notes
and I listened for it but it wasn’t working.
He seemed to be trying to ascend a scale.
Then my downstairs neighbor started playing his piano.
It was loud and slightly out of tune.
He lunged forward, arrogantly, stood on a chord,
I think he was standing on the keyboard,
then his left hand tried to create some rhythm.
He kept missing notes, he kept slipping.
I stopped listening.

Then my wife came home and I went to greet her.
We kissed. She held a paper bag of something that she
put down on the table beside the onion.
I told her I was fired and she said she thought it was great.
She said we could drink, we could stay up all night, talk,
lay around and smooch. She smiled like a child.
I held her face in my hands and kissed her.
“You don’t have to go to Brooklyn anymore,” she said.
We both nodded solemnly.
Then someone knocked on the door and she opened it
and it was Ed, the next door singer.
She let him in and they started
to talk.

I went back to my chair and couldn’t hear what they said.
It became night as they talked.
The cars went by and the rain stopped.
Ed went back to his apartment and my wife came in.
She smiled, bent down to kiss me and then sat in my lap.
We listened to apartment sounds: movement, pipe noises,
floor boards groaning under weight, distant televisions.
I don’t have to go to Brooklyn anymore, I thought,
I can stay in Queens forever.

 

Image Credit:Jarle Refsnes
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Douglas Goodwin is a poet who came to prominence in the 80s and famously attracted the admiration of Charles Bukowski. Goodwin's work is available in rare editions on Amazon.com.

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