The 6th Street psychic pulls me into our vestibule
to show me her breasts. She lives two floors below
and she’s got that dark, thick tan like the first bite
of an early plum, this lady can pull me anywhere.
Star, she calls me, which of course is better
than any actual name. She has a boyfriend
some nights, the boyfriend of the universe,
who sets up the blue light under her blue
umbrella on the street—come Star, he says,
sit under the light so I can see how blue you are.
His skin, thinner than the psychic’s,
futuristic. His mustache, his thick, hairy legs
right there pumping like a second heart,
like he’s Garibaldi charging in seersucker and beige.
Hours after the psychic, he pulls me into the vestibule
himself, spreads his arms, grazes the mailboxes
on one wall, the exterminator’s laminated check-off
on the opposite, he’s that big across, that big
up and down, paint flecks fall into the creases
of his belt hand. There is always a reason
to be taken through a doorway, someone’s fingers
used and ready, promising to thrust back time.
Don’t I always believe it? Right now right now
now now the only beat in a paragraph
I ever seem to hear, like fluorescent electron
hum from the ceiling. The psychic’s right outside,
laughing, her teeth wide. She’s got a patient,
a customer, her table’s full of cards, her breasts
as young as the planet. She has her timer set.
—from Rattle #48, Summer 2015
Tribute to New Yorkers
Linda S. Gottlieb: “When my sister was a baby, the hookers down on 14th Street used to coo to her in her stroller. New York seems normal to me, all those hot Weegee crowds, elbows everywhere, the city vile and evil and lovely and magical, like every hometown. New York, its ash and streets and ghosts, set my rhythms, and I’m always trying to write my way into and out of its siren songs.”