BY GRIFFIN JAYE
LITTLE CHICKEN" OR VARIATIONS ON YOU, PART TWO
You are in a room
In a house
On a street
In a part of town you've never seen before.
.What youre wondering is whether that marimba asserting and reasserting
itself in ¾ is just in your head, or if that skull-dented-moon-faced guy
shaking in the corner can hear it, too.
You don't really care.
Youre here now again; a place (bare floor)
A time (you can almost make out last years model digital clock)
But you don't care about any of those either.
You think now maybe that this could be a Latin themed party; there are
chilli pepper lights, sure, but you cant tell if those are Spanish ruffles
on that skinny girl's dress, of it her boyfriend just tore the bottom of it
in the bathroom. You saw them walk out, shut the door two satisfying clicks
behind them, beaded-sweaty, beat. You'll keep watching them all night,
You're sitting on the stained couch with your red plastic cupped drink and
your fingers sticky with anticipation and you think youre going to stay. If
you go back, outside to the public transportation, to the 9th floor
apartment, to the tap water and the streets, so many things could strike you
You haven nothing better to do now than wait or think about your mother. You
do both of these things more often than you'd care to admit.
When you were twelve years old, you knew this guy who lived on the streets
and your dad called him a bum. This bum you knew, he used to play drums on
overturned tin garbage cans in the park, 20 hours a day, stopping only to
rest his eyes, he said, or to drink the can of Pepsi that you would
occasionally buy for him because you always stopped at Charlie's Shop on the
way home from 6th grade anyway and you usually found a few extra dollars on
the table in the mornings. Your mother liked to leave some cash for you and
some for Salma, the cleaning lady, who you liked even though she smelled
like curry, because she had beautiful fingernails and let you stay up late
to watch dirty sitcoms.
This bum you knew, he played drums on overturned cans and he told you
stories. He told you the story about the only girl he'd ever loved. She'd
been killed five years ago, he said. She'd fallen through the subway grade
on 45th and Broadway and landed on her back on the electrified third rail of
the 1/9 train. This happens to approximately 1.3 people per year, the bum
said, statistically. His girl had lived on the highest floor of the tallest
building on the West Side and she'd been killed by the sidewalk. That's when
he knew, the bum said, that's when he knew, he knew then, he said, he knew
that the ground and the sky were definitely going to war. The sidewalk is
always jealous that the buildings are so high. The buildings are always
jealous that the ground is so low. She'd been a regular Helen of Troy, this
girl, the bum said, man she was beautiful. He didn't want more blood on his
hands, he said. So he played on the garbage cans because they right in
between the streets and the clouds and the loud noise distracted everyone.
We all know that no one can fight when they're really distracted, the bum
said, and you believed him, of course, because you were twelve and you
Ten years later, you met the boy with the stupid blue eyes. You were walking
down Avenue A thinking about high gas prices and wearing that pair of jeans
you still can't seem to get rid of, no matter how bad they look on you. You
were dead tired, circles under your eyes like you'd been pummelled by the
beaks of small angry chickens. He stopped you, though, jeans and all, and
asked directions to the Bowrey, which was only 7 blocks away.
And so you gave him directions to the Bowrey and it was easy because it was
only 7 blocks away.
But he asked you if you had time to walk him there, and once you arrived he
admitted he'd known all along, after all, its just a
Left-right-left-cross at the Houston intersection-left-right-left again
He'd just wanted your company.
You let him take you out to dinner
A party and you moved in with him 3 months later.
You rode into his life on the big lazy curlicue of his nights and his
friends and then he and you started going to parites in parts of town you
didn't know with big antique stained couches and jarring new-new wave music
that you could never dance to because you were too confused and he thought
you were being clever, saying that new-new would make new wave old-new, and
so you crossed your eyes and stuck out your tongue and he took it into his
And kissed you like that.
Three months isn't long enough to keep people from getting sick, he said
And he got sick.
He said he got sick, he said....
He got sick because you weren't really that smart back then, because you
hadn't been all places you said you had and done all te things you said youd
done. Got sick because your stories were in the second person, a narrative
trick even the most experimental authors have abandoned because it gets
He got sick because you spoke in monotone.
Because you were monotonous you were full of bad ideas.
Then he made a mess of the bathroom, sick, threw things. He'd found out that
there were other girls in town, girls with good libraries and thick
dictionaries and pretty smiles who knew east from west and those girls
You took your stuff from his apartment and it fit into two large suitcases
because, really, you idnt have much to begin with, and you went to live with
Vicky on Macdougal because she'd been looking for a roommate anyway and she
liked to go to parties with couches and stranges and you thought it might be
You and Vicky started walking to work together and you talked about how loud
the traffic helicopters were on Monday mornings and you barely ever thought
of him. Except one day Vicky got hit in the head by a brick falling from the
sixth floor of a building that was being renovated and she spent a month in
the hospital recovering froma major concussion and you had the whole
apartment to yourself. So you started hosting parties and people spilled
beer all over your couch and the arms grew pockmarked with cigarettes and
sentimental kisses and you almost wished Vicky would stay in the hospital, a
thought that made you kick youself hard enough to bruise, so when she moved
you moved out.
Two weeks ago you were on the subway and the train ground to a halt. You and
a car full of people were stuck in the subway tunnel for three hours. You
stared hard at a lot of faces, trying to memorize them because you'd always
wanted to be someone who doesn't forget a face.
And he was there.
No, not in your car, but in the next one over. You could see him holding
onto the pole, sitting down, standing up, checking his watch every 5 ½
minutes, wearing that floor length leather jacket that looked so stupid on
him that you'd actually grownt to like it.
He never looked over. So you looked at the faces--the girl with stiletto
eyes, the guy with garbage teeth. So you thought about ways to fix your tap
for three hours. Maybe you'd call the plumber, or else your mother.
Last week you tripped on 13th and skinned your knee, deep and severe like
you used to when you were a kid. Tectonic sidewalk earthquaked and there
were lumps, bumps in the pavement.
You saw him at the A&P and he didn't say hello.
You're living alone on the top floor of your apartment building, a short,
stout teapot complex with no rooftop garden, no patio. You noticed this
morning that you ceiling is leaking after last night's rain. Chunks of
stucco have fallen to the floor and there's a water mark that looks like a
rat and its spreading. You can almost see the sky and you know it smells
like pine sol.
You didn't want to be home. You came to this party on Lafayette around nine.
You are sitting on the couch and looking at him from across the room. He
nods once in your direction, but otherwise keeps to himself, mostly. Keeps
to himself and to that girl with the Mohawk scaffolding and a scar three
inches wide. He keeps to her all the way into the bedroom, the bedroom of
In some apartment
Where you know no one, really, and you don't really care.
The music is too loud, the music is too new.
You want to leave, except you cant
You cant go outside
You cant go outside because
Youre pretty sure the sky is falling.
and a couple poems...
REFLECTION ON GINSBERG, VALENTINES DAY
My boyfriend and
are thinking of doing it
up the ass.
sticking it up
I have bought
Vaseline ($1.99, large)
my head is down
and my will is up
me pressing hotel bathroom
tile with fist
thumb tucked under
head twined round
the bowl of the sink
well, he says to me,
over the phone,
"dont be stupid.
you cant take it."
I smile and grit my thighs.
anything is possible
so long as my
hands are clean.
Anything is a weapon
if you sharpen
we learned perspective in school today.
how things come together
at the center of the page.
how things meet
and then dissolve.
we learned in school today
perspective in degrees
twenty points for hindsight
and .45 for force.
we are learning metaphors
with charcoal drawings
so we can capture the street
and the right angle of sun
from the window.
we learned how to fight instict
and trust sight.
so that things would add up