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[Toronto. April 24, 1994]

In the city
The prime time for trout,
No choice,
I walk the quick-step,
Eyes ahead,
Walking point,
Squinting like a polar walker,
The air in Gehenna still,
Zephyrless as an oven,
Sweat glues my shirt
To my back.
When I stop to catch
My breath and smoke
I sense movement
In the shadows.
“I’m cookin',” she says low-like,
“Kin you hep a lost lady?”
She has the graceful finger
Movements of a Thai
Temple dancer, this skew
Called Rose-a-Mort,
Brown-eyed, noisome
Practitioner of the pinchbeck,
She vamp-scans passers-by,
An actuary of action,
Lifting a filthy pink skirt
To reveal
A littoral of thin legs,
Emaciated hip-bones
Pressed over diaphanous skin,
She squalls like
The sulfur-crested cuckoo
At sunset
Keening for a handout
To buy a fix, no illusions,
No hunger here
But for oblivion
In the molten-melt
Into a strapped down,
Tapped up
Blue vein hard as aged hemp,
Not the high anymore,
But panacea
Like aspirin,
General anesthetic
Against living.
So low,” she crows, beat flat,
a victim of chances taken
and not, she shifts
“ante-up my wikiup,
my little whiteworm,
the buzz-kill
hangs over me,
I need to scromp
Or knuckle-up to nasty,
Go hatless with
A broke-to-the-curb maggot,’
Dance the phantsula
In Flashabou butt-floss.
How you think I get this way, Mister,
And you like that?
Don’t seem like God’s plan
Where the Lord Jesus done gone,
The one I be knowin’ in my
Childhood where Bah-piss
Drinked the Drano, spoked in tongues?
Maybe the devil, that old
Beelzebub got hisseff inside me,
I hear he lives round my hood,
Preys on wimmins down on the luck.

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