THE CROSS BRONX
When I was a young guy driving a truck
and windowless buildings made The Bronx look
like bombed Berlin, I was always afraid
of breaking down and becoming one more
statistic, that lone man, nervous, unarmed,
wandering up some sooty exit ramp
and into gang-graffiti-land to search
for a working phone. A kid from the ‘burbs
where crack cocaine had not yet spread, I’d pass
the burned skeletons of stripped cars and vans,
praying like a soldier under fire,
hoping no pothole would blow a tire,
while scanning every deadly overpass
or the laughing children who’d sometimes zing
bottles and rocks at the windshields below.
For this I got paid seven bucks an hour.
And just when I believed I’d seen it all,
the window-holes of those buildings were gone,
boarded shut with sheets of plywood, hundreds
of them, each painted in a quaint fashion
o depict some form of habitation:
striped, solid and polka-dotted curtains,
lower-pots blooming—I swear this is true—
even house-cats perching on windowsills.
Feeling surrounded by the surreal,
the insane, I thought of the Twilight Zone
and LSD, and tried to keep my truck
in lane, my hands tight-fisted on the wheel.
Now, though the road remains more cratered
than the moon, real windows fill those buildings,
and people live in a place that had seemed
forsaken, or like the end of the world,
landscape of nightmares in the land of dreams.
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