I Cry Paris in My Sleep (and other things drawn in the margins of my life)

(Photo: Fred Stein)

The finger I use for scooping out coffee grounds from the grinder is black under the nail. If it’s Tuesday then it’s Autumn. The usefulness of a rationale that doesn’t figure. Bee ties. Pigeon cameras. A lamprey in the bathtub. It’s a musical washbox that never gets scrubbed. Cast-iron jealousy hooked to a crane. Piddled away attention. The come-and-go charm of radio. The noisiest gum on the block. I’m mustering some third-generation Cadillac-Coupe-De-Ville courage. I’m just too damn recognizable. Desperately seeking a bologna sandwich, and the moon’s out hunting Marseille again. Talking loud so strangers will hear and be impressed: “You’ve always been so young for your age.” “Tell me who you aren’t.” “Just me and my folding money, and a gorgeous Gaucho hat. A shagreen purse and a crepe-paper smile,” carrying on and repointing the bricks of the past with hard-fought wonder. Casked to sell? It’s a deceitful plan, perhaps, but the mind’s conniving gets laden with grandfathered clauses. Asking starts to question itself. A dab of duck fat behind each ear makes my personality a confit of redundant charm. I brush my hair with castor oil and use rusty nails as toothpicks. Let’s make a deal to make no more wishes, to put the stars back to sleep when this is all through, and to wreck havoc on Tuesday’s blues with a few of Friday night’s flashiest neon letters. For now, the Guatemalan Godfather’s sitting next to me on this termite-infested bench while I feed ice cream sandwiches to mangy pigeons and tell the time by church bells. All my nightmares are made of corroded chromosomes, plugged pennies, and 15-minute lunch breaks, and they’re stitched up cheap with broken cello strings. In the last place, well, there’s a terror there that weeps sleep from boredom. Sulking ribbons from a hangdog moon when maple-syrup clouds strut to make the least sense. And when the upstairs girls get to stomping around, it’s like there’s a 5.8 rambling through town. My record player skips all the best songs, and the microwave doesn’t even got enough zap left in it to make popcorn. Let me tell you, it gets rudimentary and mortgaged and hard-up to be alive when your racing form’s all filled up with circled losers. The coffee boos me in the morning, and I sneak love along The Seine from the truth peddlers and the saltwater canners who recreate the looks of a mesmerizing situation with Band-Aid-colored flags in tow. Nobody’s going to want my organs when I’m gone. You see, on this side of Palookaville there are still upsets in the making and more considerations to consider, as I shuffle the depths and swing slim from the banisters. The lady who waits on me at the grocery is wearing a “Have A Nice Day” pin in her lapel. I waltz outside on anything but, squinting beneath and under the blinding sun, and stare up at a glass-skinned behemoth skyscraper that’s reflecting other buildings in its cascading cerulean dance of windows, and I flounder around and dance by the empty place where a bus station used to go. Tomorrow’s a dropped hat and a duel of fingers. Tosspot’s grow ragged and rig their hearts with safety-pin sadness. Sing me seltzer and champagne, and sweep the gutters with swizzle-stick brooms. It’s a crumb to toss to party crashers and melee evacuees. Trust the judgment of wizened crows and the cracked crossbeams in the rafters of your soul. My heart’s shattered china. I waste all my wishes on the bottles behind the bar, and I miss what the sun’s got left to make of me. I dance in movie theatres and cut my own hair. But my windows, they still stay lit all through the night for someone who’s never coming back around ever again. The Champs-Élysées is calling your name, as the crueler instincts of night play misty with your drugstore courage. No cough syrup; and everybody smokes. In the less famous breezes you can almost hear them laughing at me while all the arrondissements lose their rain-slick testaments to better days gone by. The elevator’s on the make. And all I can muster is, “Je ne sais pas,” with the sweetest tooth on the planet, just like she used to, just like we used to do.

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