"Suddenly 21 Times," "Before Grassroots Closed," and "After in a Florida Motel"

Suddenly 21 Times

Rising rates, hot spots, piles of bodies and I suddenly feel like I am in that story I read as a girl - the end of the world and the woman writing her last words about how they all loved until the final minute. OK then. I will keep writing no matter what.

Ted’s autistic son calls, frantic.  His stepfather just told him there are food shortages in NY.  We just got back from Trader Joe’s, Ted tells him.  We’re fine.

Our people survived the pogroms and the camps, I tell Ted.  We’ll survive.

The news from Spain.  Patients over 65 taken off ventilators, sedated so they die peacefully.  I say to Ted, that’s genocide.  He says, that’s a decision.  No, I say. It’s genocide. All that money for guns?  Now, that’s a decision. 

Early morning, empty street.  Little girl and Daddy singing as they walk down 12th Street.  I lean out the window, join in.

Another trip to Trader Joe’s shopping for neighbors more fragile than we are.  Run into the two young guys from next door fleeing to their country home.

The University just evacuated Robin from 12th Street to 23rd Street. 

The 82-year-old neighbor next door is defiant. She is not going to stop going out.

Utter silence. Like a 1970s Sunday morning.  I just want to sit here and listen. I have loads of writing today, but something says enjoy. Enjoy this quiet.  The noise will return soon enough.

That piece of shit is condemning all of us to death. Between bullying and being bullied stands a warrior.  I need to be a warrior. 

Late afternoon watching an elderly man being bundled into an ambulance.   Like watching people being rounded up one by one.  Prayed for him as they drove off.

What if it isn’t asthma?

Dropped off cake for the few neighbors remaining in the building.

A baby died.  A 5-month-old baby.  Write, write every ounce of rage and pain.  Write revenge.  Write every molecule of revenge.

If that piece of shit wins again, can we flee?  We make a 72-hour list: what can we take, what do we leave behind. But what about the cats?

430 am no sleep again. … Look out onto the street.  A young man storming up and down 2nd Ave with drumsticks, practicing in the air.

Harry drives by, opens up the sunroof, little 4-year-old-hands pop out.  We all waved at one another.

Cricket stops by with jellybeans – Ted gets upset when we hug each other.

230am. Dead quiet again.  I used to go out in the middle of nights like this, sit at the counter at Veselka, write crap, sip tea. 

Frantic news from old friends.  Vittoria died.

Go Write. Go Write Everything.



Before Grassroots Closed


The bar still empty enough for a weekday afternoon
John kept pouring me free drinks
He said it was because I had been around so long
least he could do for another old-timer
But I think it was because I remembered Karen
the only woman bartender for miles around back then
The one who died of breast cancer
before anyone talked of such things
We both recalled her mob boyfriend, a made man,
who babytalked when he was drunk
And I pointed to the beat-up photo of Frazier
beaming from behind the bar
The only Black bartender for miles around back then
The one who died of AIDS
before anyone talked of such things
We both recalled him and Wrinkles every Saturday night
dancing on the bar to New York, New York as we all sang along
And John poured me another drink
And the rare light from St. Marks filtered through windows that hadn’t been washed since before anyone died
And for a couple of minutes
life wasn’t missing all the people we loved



After in a Florida Motel


Falling between two single beds with a hard-on
he says something really corny and I think
I should write that down
because he’s a poem I’m always about to forget
We can’t have sex right now
deep holes still closing after we both decided
not to have the baby
drifting away from the sad legacy of his dead father
and the lonely time I spent with living parents,
I dream briefly of a child who will never grow broken into her heart like we did
Still, grim thoughts wake me
So I watch this boy poem slumber
while a zillion words he yearns for
pound inside the sudden empty home of the baby
we both decided not to have
Soon he will rise in bright morning light
and woo me with condensed milk and coffee
his fierce love hammering at the Berlin Wall I made
from grief and the right decision
Until then slip on his soft shirt
let it hold me like he did that night not so long ago
and with a quick breath
secretly stretch myself into the sea of younger women’s bodies
he swims through every day
To hell with all the greeting card mewing I decorate my fears with 
Nothing left to do but pull myself through bad memories
grab God and shake him 
Make him swear I will be returned to grace
And the promise there is no end to this poem
Just hope



C.O. Moed

C.O. Moed grew up on New York’s Lower East Side when it was still a tough neighborhood. Alum of the WOW Café and recipient of the Elizabeth George Grant for Fiction, her work has appeared in various presses and anthologies, including: Lilith Magazine, Shades of Blue (Seal Press), and AWAKE!: Reader for the Sleepless (Soft Skull).  She explores the elusive definition of home, chronicling stories of family, neighbors and the city through writing, street photography and her series and illustrated memoir, It Was Her New York. C.O. recommends Doctors Without Borders.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Thursday, July 29, 2021 - 22:05