New York is a filthy city with its street corners
stinking of evaporated urine and its subway tiles
smudged with human shit then hosed down
though never cleaned. A century of spat-out
chewing gum pockmarks its cracked sidewalks
with black spots while the one legged pigeon
and a five-legged rat speak of rot and regeneration.
The Chrysler Building, the Empire State,
The Freedom Tower all soar overheard,
their sealed windows glazed with dust.
But only Staten Island’s dump Fresh Kills
can be seen by the aliens in outer space.
2. The City
I love New York City.
It’s a cliché. But I love it anyway.
And anyhow, I don’t love it like that.
I love it like a family, like my family.
Which means I love it and resent it,
bitch about it and defend it,
denigrate and celebrate it.
I take its flaws very personally.
I’ll never laugh at New York
because it’s not that kind of a city.
You can cry all you want in New York
because it gives you permission to.
Lately, whenever I breathe, I feel
there’s a bong between my lungs.
I inhale to an internal gurgle.
My doctor prescribed me this
asthma inhaler but I don’t want that
kind of help. I’m trying to get through
this day, not the moment. What’s wrong
with shallow breathing I wonder as I sit
on the steps of some boarded up church,
haunted perhaps by St. Christopher
now stripped of his sainthood or St. Zita,
patron saint of housemaids and lost keys.
by James Carney