Jan/Feb 2021  •   Poetry

Another New York Poem

by Jes Battis

Earthscape artwork by Andres Amador

Earthscape artwork by Andres Amador

Another New York Poem

The cat screams in her carrier
as we pass the last living gas station
in Brooklyn. You meet us,
barefoot in Greenpoint,
to help drag
my hissing life upstairs.

Red-hot bathroom pipe,
checkerboard tiles, polite
clutch of roaches who vote
on our cooking.

I smoke into the airshaft,
blogging furiously. We watch
The Wire and I cry
when Kima sings
Goodnight Moon.

I'm a dual citizen streaming porn
where everyone's name
is Blake or Corbin. I'm teaching
at an honors college
for $100 a week.

A boy brings his folded red heart
to a first date. I follow him
to Long Island, and he gives me
an STI, then tells me
he's dating his thesis.

A Polish nurse slaps my ass
to get the medicine moving. 
I discover my clinic has
a second waiting room, cash
only, with classical music,
a fountain. I hand over
the shameful bills.

A date tells me: I'm not interested,
romantically,or platonically. Now
I use this unexpected kindness
when teaching The Symposium.

I watch nature documentaries
with a playwright who says
he's pretty famous. I snore
in a hostile bed. Tame my treacherous
futon while we put on Golden Girls,
the episode where Dorothy has
chronic fatigue syndrome,
and in the middle
of sex, we both stop
to see what happens.

I stand in front of the unicorn
tapestries, alone, out of breath. You
can see each drop of blood
in carbuncle thread. I look up
at the stars in Grand Central,
waiting for a delayed heartbreak. 

My mentor, graciously dying,
tells me: Bodies,
can't live with them. I hear
the ice rattling in her tumbler.
Light tunneling into
the expensive cafeteria
where we both dissect
chicken salads. My palms
filthy from the subway railings.

On our last day, we take apart
the risky shelving, the bunk bed,
my nest of milk crates. I spend
the night in a hotel near the airport,
where the cat glares
at her carboard litter box. 

We spread out
on the scarred polyester,
watch House Hunters, where
a couple dreams
of leaving Manhattan,
just like us.