“The Mutual Building” by Christopher Citro

Christopher Citro


The new cafe is pleasant though cluttered
by all the men and women attracted by
low-priced coffee, who when grabbed
release their tails and flee. There’s snow
everywhere. When is someone going
to come clean this up? If you look up
at the top of the tallest building, first
you’ll see a star—which is lit up at night
and nice—then you’ll see some numbers.
The first ones are the temperature, which
is fine. (Pigeons stay all through the winter,
walk right in front of you along the ice.
They get in your way, but it’s fine.)
The second is the time and—here’s
the spiky thing—it’s always wrong.
No one seems to notice but secretly
everyone knows and everyone keeps
looking up then feeling bad inside.
No one needs the wrong time in the sky
when we’re just trying to cross the street.
A city parking enforcement van says it
Makes frequent stops Do not tailgate and
even the little bundles of baby being
pushed through the slush by women
with no hats on their hair are thinking
I thought you weren’t supposed to
tailgate anyone in the first place. Now
what am I supposed to think? Which is fine.
Each day at 5:30 the man with the bedroll
stands in the crook of the bank building
directly above the heat exhaust. The first day
he said, Any spare change? The second day
he just stood there with his hand out.
It had a mitten on the end. The mitten
was a light beige, the same color nearly
as the stones in the side of the bank.
But that’s not the bank’s fault. The next
day he won’t even have his hand out.
The day after that it’s entirely likely
he’ll become a statue, and that’s how
banks get the lions they have out front.

from Rattle #52, Summer 2016


Christopher Citro: “In 1968 Tommy James finished work on his next single for the Shondells. Stumped for a title, he stepped outside on his terrace for a smoke. He saw the Mutual of New York building across the skyline with its name in lights and boom got the title ‘Mony Mony.’ In Syracuse we have a sister to the NYC MONY building, and it flashes the time above where I used to work. One day heading to the newly opened Tim Hortons on my lunch hour for a decaf coffee I looked up in the sky and boom got this poem.” (web)

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