Monthly Archives: July 2011

on the corner of n6th and bedford you told a kid, “get outta here before i take your dad’s credit card.” – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-hypocrite-

*by someone who isn’t well read*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*the corner of n6th and bedford’s his. the neighborhood street vendors know it. his voice, tempered with a bronx accent, will fill them in if they don’t.

if someone pushes the issue he’ll inform them with a fist.*

*

*he’s almost fifty and a former teacher. once i asked why he’s not teaching anymore.

“a guy like me doesn’t last in academia. i’m from the streets. not westchester or connecticut. someone’s not telling me what i can and can’t say because they paid eight years worth of tuition. fuck ‘em. i’ve lived in the real world for free my whole life. on my corner no one tells me what to do. “

when he finished his explanation i decided to like him.*

*

*there’re moments he comes off heavy handed but he’s not a thug. the product he pushes isn’t sensational.

books. he knows what the neighborhood wants- bukowski, kerouac, sedaris, marukami, blah blah blah. if you ask about the titles on his tables he’ll express contempt.

“these people don’t read. they follow trends. if i didn’t have rent to pay i’d dump most of this garbage in the east river.”

he won’t be talked down on his prices. not ever. burning blue eyes set in a sun-soaked face will blast young hagglers before responding, “price is on the cover money bags. better call home.”*

*

*it’s wednesday morning. his table’s out early and the streets aren’t fully awake. only a few people are heading into (or away from) their days on bedford avenue. the sky’s cloudless. its blue’s forgiving.

last night i punched a guy in front of a bar. the place is a block from his corner. most have heard the streets talk but there’re many who think they don’t say anything worth hearing. he’s the kind of man who knows they do. he knows how and when to listen.

i walk towards him to banter before heading into my grind.

after our ‘hey how you doin’s’ he says, “heard you smacked somebody in front of the charleston yestaday.”

“you heard right,” i answer.

his face is stern.

“gonna tell me why you’re hittin’ people on a crowded block? why you’d risk getting locked up?”

i like him enough to answer.

“guy was my friend and did me dirty. i felt those punches way before he did.”

he grins.

“a woman?”

“yeah.”

he shakes his head while saying, “bad fuckin’ form. i’d be proud of you if it’d gone down over money.”

“sorry to disappoint you.”

his hands raise in an offended gesture. his face scrunches.

“don’t get fresh. did you love her?”

“no.”

he looks confused.

“why was she worth hitting a friend then?”

“didn’t have anything to do with her. had to do with him. loved him like a brother.”

his face relaxes. he nods.

“betrayal. got it. sorry you did it?”

i knew he’d get it. my tone’s remained soft.

“i regret it. not sorry though.”

“sounds about right. i might’ve done the same. think he knows he deserved it?”

“no. says i’m unstable,” i respond.

“old money rich boy?”

“yeah.”

he laughs.

“makes sense. they usually don’t get others’ pain. they’ve never felt it. listen to me- known you for a while now. this world’s knocked you around enough to put some hardness into ya.

“i’ve seen a little bit on these streets. i know hard men are also gentle men. i’m not talking about tough guys. they’re fulla shit. i’m talking about hard men. we understand what it’s like.

“you’re not any crazier than any of these slippery bastards out here thinking they’re civilized. don’t let anyone tell you that.

“you’ve just got too much passion for your own good,” he finishes.

i let a few seconds of silence help me understand. then i speak.

“thanks. i mean it. you’re a good man.”

he looks embarrassed for the first time.

“i don’t know about all that.”

“i do. you just don’t like yourself. i don’t dig myself either. get over it for a sec and accept the compliment,” i say barbing my voice.

his smile pulls stronger.

“thanks kid. hope you know you’re a stand up guy too.”

“i have a moment here and there.”

“don’t be a fuckin’ hypocrite,” he growls.*

*

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rolling your eyes you remarked, “the love you’re professing has way more to do with you than me,” at cafA moto (on 394 broadway between hooper and keap) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-romantic-

*by someone who has issues

setting realistic goals*

(frankie leone)

 *

*she’ll never want me

 -

never has

never will

 -

which is why i want her

 -

but never have

and never will.*

*

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you asked if my mother had facial hair at the 2nd ave deli’s new spot (on 162 east 33rd street and lex) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-jew-

*by a dego*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*her grandparents are ukrainian jews but that hasn’t stopped her from not knowing shit about the ukraine or judaism.

she grew up in windsor terrace, brooklyn. most of her childhood friends are offspring of anglo park slope yuppies. rent’s cheaper in prospect park south- the hood. it’s where she lives these days. we watch rented movies and sin together there.

she defines the idea of a nice american girl. every time we’re together her normalcy dynamites my mind. my friends are shocked she’s into me.

most mornings i tell her, “you look gorgeous,” “you’re so pretty,” or, “god damn you’re beautiful.” usually her response is nervous laughter, “stop trying to flatter me,” or silence wearing an uncomfortable expression.

i think i understand.*

*

*she lies in bed half asleep. her nightie’s light pink. brown lined plaid’s mixed into the fabric. its hem’s pulled up her slender waist. a lot’s showing. like leagues of pale legs that are always shaved. she’s not wearing underwear either.

her landing strip looks like my kind of trouble.

the long brown hair falling around her shoulders was cut yesterday. i didn’t notice at first. she mentioned it and pointed out i hadn’t. this let grains of guilt into my shell. there’s a chance my insides are irritated because i know i act like an asshole.

there’s a better chance they are because she knows i act like an asshole.

her bedroom’s quiet. i can’t stop looking at her and want to rip myself from guilty thoughts. it feels seedy watching her. i decide to wake her by getting into trouble.

two pigeons with one bb.*

*

*afterwards she lights a parliament light and glides towards the bedroom window.

she smokes in a plush-upholstered chair. a trash day find. the deep red fabric cushioning her body vibrates into my eyes. she opens a lap top resting on the side-table. i concoct a compliment and resume my gaze.

“your new hair helps keep your spot as the prettiest jewish girl i know,” i say smiling.

she fires a quick glare before shifting her eyes to the screen. there’s no response and it’s plain she’s avoiding eye contact.

“what’s wrong?”

her wounded voice responds, “why would you think that’s a compliment?”

“what?”

“i don’t want to talk anymore. be quiet.”

humid tension hangs in the air while confusion soaks my consciousness.

“why? you’re insulted?”

tears vine down her cheeks. overwhelmed, i press her.

“what’s wrong? is it because i said something about being jewish?”

she doesn’t respond. panicking, i insist, “baby?”

“yes.”

her voice is soggy with tears.

“i’m so sorry. i don’t understand though. why does that hurt your feelings? didn’t you grow up around jews? aren’t you proud of your roots? we live in brooklyn after all.”

“i’m sorry too. i’m overreacting,” her words sigh, “i didn’t grow up jewish. my family didn’t go to temple and i hung around christian kids.”

“and they gave you shit for being jewish?”

“no. no one knew unless they heard my last name or asked. my whole childhood i still heard, ‘he jewed me down,’ or ‘that dude’s got a jew nose,’ though. it made me think jews are cheap and ugly. it made me feel like i was. being a jew didn’t do me a lot of favors outside a jewish community. even in brooklyn. people just don’t like us.”

“damn. wish we’d had this conversation before. i really am sorry,” i repeat softly as possible.

“it’s ok. no way you could’ve known about my complex. sorry to get all neurotic on you.”

she wipes her face and continues, “you dumb wop.”

a grin overpowers tear stained skin. i shine one back at her.

“it’s all good baby. you wouldn’t be an authentic jew if you weren’t neurotic. just like i wouldn’t be a real italian if my family didn’t get me used to dramatic behavior.”

i see her shoulders relax before she says, “glad we’re on the same page.”

“damn right we are. and next time we eat on 7th ave i’m staring extra disdainfully at blue-eyed yuppies discussing furniture.”*

*

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at the bronx zoo (on 2300 southern boulevard) you commented, “i’d maul the first mother fucker i could if someone put me in a cage.” – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-lion-

*by someone hoping to escape the new cage he’s built*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*a man with a few scars

and a few regrets

-

remembers

-

visiting the zoo as a child

 -

seeing crowds of people

staring at exotic animals

through fences and glass

 -

being overjoyed at the spectacle

 -

fleetingly fascinated

but soon saddened

 -

seeing the lion alone

in his cage*

*

*he recalls a time

years after he visited the zoo

-

when he was in such a cage

eventually finding himself alone

-

the cage had walls of hopelessness

and a shatter-proof glass partition

tempered strong with resignation

 -

separating him

 -

from disgusted viewers

briskly stepping past

 -

stale smoke hung

in the air

 -

his water bowl and food dish

filled with ninety-two proof sailor jerry rum

and white  or brown powder*

*

*during recollections

 -

he remembers

not-so-much the agony

and not-so-much the loneliness

 -

but a small oasis of brotherly love

 -

found in an enormous desert

of grotesque suffering* 

*

*for a time he shared his cage

with a young man his age

 -

who stumbled on it the way he did

 -

accidentally

 -

searching for a solution to life

finding only confinement

in every respect

 -

he remembers their wanderings

side-by-side and blind-folded

 -

in the small cage

-

having only each other

and temporary interests

of puzzled viewers*

*he remembers

nights listening to songs

 -

written by deceased

residents of other cages

 -

speaking of women they’d had

when they’d walked free

 -

and great works they’d begun to read

but never finished

 -

they’d look at each other

 -

through

tired

red

eyes

 -

knowing they were prisoners

but never speaking of it

 -

feeling desperate fraternal love

 -

only two men

near the bottom of an abyss

together and alone

 -

understand*

*the man with a few scars

and a few regrets

 -

carries dark memories

of his time in the zoo

 -

and despite the days

he feels sun on his face

 -

moments still come where he longs

for the love felt between those

with nothing to lose

 -

who feel little concern

for the spectators

who’re the rest of the world.*

*

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you made fun of the napkins at 151 kent avenue (between north 4th and north 5th street) – 26 (williamsburg, borough of lost boys)

*

-napkins-

*by a proud cliché*

(frankie leone, just a man)

*

*brushing blonde hair out of her face she asks, “what are these?”

“sometimes i walk the streets at night…”

“like a prostitute,” a giggle-soaked question interrupts.

“…and i stop in bars to watch people drink and dance. i take breaks to write on napkins. that’s what they are,” i finish.

sliding a sacagawea coin in my fingers her image comforts my green eyes. my irises are close to hazel (in some light). her eyes are green. closer to blue.

biting her lip she grins the grin of a sweet girl. not a devious adult. a sweet girl’s voice dissolves a brief quiet.

“ohhh, like a tortured poet.”

another pause.

winking, she proceeds, “going to get breakfast with me baby?”

“hell no,” my vocal chords vibrate through a smile, “you’re talking smack about my cliché.”

the cursive covered napkins are tacked to the low cross-beams of my bedroom ceiling. i often bump my head into this obnoxious lumber.

brushing her fingers over the flimsy papers she whispers, “yeah, but it’s a wonderful cliché.”

“stay put for a second,” i say picking up keys and starting towards the door, “i’ll be back in a few.”

there’s an over hyped brunch spot on the corner of north 5th street and bedford avenue. two orders of eggs, bacon, and hash brown are almost twenty dollars. the to-go containers are nice. maybe that’s what i’m paying for.*

*

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*


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