"Larkin Street, Little Saigon" and "While Watching You Sleep"

Larkin Street, Little Saigon

they hang from the fire escapes like drowned birds
smoking languid cigarettes and coughing into fists
in this strange city
in the black and purple city
this gold rush city
where neon is ice in the veins of outriders
where the night is a rerun of oblivion

they stalk the streets with angular aggression
dragged from the regions of ancient horror stories
into the theater of daylight street life
in the vibrant orange strumming of sun
the pavement adrift with debris
gaudy paint drying on skin and walls
in the strange city
this carrousel city
this politically pantomimed city
a clown ride to the beach
where the Pacific stretches infinite
or down in the transit tunnels
where scorned scarecrows are ignored
and cardboard housing swept around

the holiest, the poorest
the weirdest, the featureless
the reverse of corporate advertisement
bustle of the suits in such a hurry to run in place
the yoga mats and clicking heels
the cellular obsession with social media
the newly brainwashed class

streetcars clanging
imported from Milan
from Washington DC
from Brussels
from Philadelphia
from New Orleans
the exhaust-blackened bricks
on Market Street
people sleeping on manhole covers
mists snaking through their bundles

whistling pipes
whispering steam
prone on the mattress, breathing in the strangeness
the ceiling like a penalty in the game of visualization

above the rooftops they flit like hummingbirds
flame burnishing the air with taint of oil
a sudden shout
a hard-handed honk
a shrill siren scream
Larkin Street, Little Saigon
sidewalk dope fiends
dreams hanging from the clouds like sleepy angels

 


While Watching You Sleep

I like to get drunk in the morning
because the hummingbirds are awake
because the recycling truck has cranked into gear
because the radio is turned low and you are asleep
and there is nothing else to do.

when has there ever been anything as unlikely,
as musical, as
spurned by the erosion of the sun
as this?

I like to be completely wasted, absolutely incognito,
an extra in a film, a grain of sand on a foreign beach,
a lightning bug in a glass, a post-industrial revolution.

I pace around in the room, I have my
little routes.

outside the window the smallest of birds complain
outside the window the homeless scurry,
outside the addicts, outside the drunks
while you sleep like another piece of the furniture,
something I found in the alley
needing a last place of rest,
a little light leaks in through the frayed curtains
stained by guttural traffic, the strum of industry.

I like to walk out of the stairwell
well aware of my posture
reeling yet perfectly reasonable
colors arrayed like targets at the carnival,
I like to get clownish and painted like in the past
like a clown, a harlequin, an aborigine,
a gargoyle, a Godzilla
a golem.

how I fantasize
while you sleep so
unlike anybody lamented,
don’t you see? charged with wild strawberries
blossoms strewn across your brow
juice leaking,
tongues inviting champagne,
silver at the edges of your portrait
a wolf howling in some snow cold wilderness.

 

 

Jay Passer’s work has appeared in print and online all over the globe since 1988. He is the author of several chapbooks, and his 2018 full-length collection, they lied to me when they said everything would be alright, from Pski’s Porch Publishing, is currently available from Amazon. Passer lives and works in San Francisco, the city of his birth.

 

Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Wednesday, June 1, 2016 - 00:46