Ghetto Mart

You guys want anything from Ghetto Mart? 
I ask a room at Hancock Court.

Blood-hued sirens throb dangling shards of stained glass.

Orange pop, Joan Crawford insists,
lighting cigarettes off
of her flannel pajamas.

A 6 pack, sneers Werly Fairburn, who lives in 110.

Smokes, snaps Lawrence Olivier,
pointing at his miniature choodle
whose pea-sized bladder threatens
the antique carpet.

I gather crumpled dollars from my friends' moist palms
& head on over to Ghetto Mart, 3rd St. & Forest.

I descend a shabby green staircase, thinking of how my lungs will quake
when I ascend the staircase again,
thinking of all the bottles I will drain from Ghetto Mart,
how each one will result into a separate trip -- the heaving of recyclables,
a drudgery, a heaviness, the noise, the emptiness,
the burden symbolized by a huge blue bag,
clanking hollow glass pacifiers, what else can I say ...

Glass machines suck them in for dimes.

I shove open a squeaky backdoor & hear Charles Bukowski
tell his basement people to shut up or he'll get evicted.

He's getting evicted.

Immediately, I look to my left
to see if my lover's lights are on.

Charlie Dawson's bedroom ignites the alley.
The buttery florescence crosses
Connie Francis' Camery.

I heel my cheap red boots across urban gravel,
poking around the dumpsters for a new lampshade,
taking in a lost gallery of graffiti tags.
The blood-hued sirens rip against a steeple's chimes.

The poor shall inherit
the Ghetto Mart.

The meek dig for a match.

My imagination is money.

           … Hey, baby, I'm sorry, but you think you kin get me 
           a lil change when you come on out?
                    I'd very much appreciate it, 
                                                says a hungry man 
with eyes like runny eggs & veins like satellites.
Nappy & trench-coated & tired,
he holds the door open for me as if I was his customer.
Yackety - Yak! Don't talk back, rolls University Market,
but we all call it Ghetto Mart,
like adolescents cussing behind text books with unstretched bindings.        
                             Fuck dude, I'm trippin',
                             curses a thick man in a Red Wings' jacket, 
                             eating White Castles near 
                             the new Barely Legal.

A convex mirror stretches me into this aquarium of man-eaters.

The Iraqi owners pivot behind plexi-glass,
retrieving Hennessy & Parliments
for Romeo and Juliet.

Get me some of them Red Hots & a copy of this here High Times, some Newports...
a 5th of Vodka, NO! a pint, yeah that's right, no not them Snickers, man...

& the owner yells, Vhat is it you vant?

  I'll have my lover on his back, please,
  so that I can slip upon him like a ring --
  No I'm just playin'. I'll have the orange pop & the beer & the cigarettes
  & your smile, which is like a photograph of sunlight,
  & the clientele at my back like a platoon of lonely hearts
  & the numbing freeze beyond the door
  & spare change to feed to poor
  & my two cheap red boots, kicking rocks against the lot, 
  & Charles Bronson's elbow, crossed into mine like a knot.


                                - Erin Knowles
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