A few months after Chapman
gunned down John Lennon,
I was in New York
visiting a friend.
We smoked a joint,
walked through Central Park
that cold bright February day,
chatting about whatever
came to mind,
emerging at Seventy-Second Street.
My Olympus OM-1
with the telephoto lens
like the barrel of an elephant gun
slung around my neck,
I offered to shoot Roger
in front of the Dakota.
As I fiddled with the focus ring,
a little disoriented by the dope,
a blond woman swept out
from the building,
past the servile doorman,
celebrity self-conscious, glamorous
in big Onassis sunglasses,
cocooned in full-length fur.
Seeing me aim at Roger,
she ducked her head,
threw her hand in front of her face,
as if to deflect a blow,
hailed a passing taxi,
which swerved to the curb
like a sedan in a police thriller.
The cab headed downtown,
a getaway car
blending with the traffic.
The uniformed doorman approached us,
now menacing as a cop on the beat.
Roger and I walked briskly
up Central Park West.
I never did figure out
who that woman was.
“Who the fuck you think you talkin’ to?”
I’m standing at my locker at the gym,
reaching in for the other towel,
having just showered.
I glance over at the man on the bench
fifteen feet to my left.
He’s talking into a cellphone.
“I am going to end your life when I see you,”
he threatens the person on the phone,
and then he clarifies
after that person probably said what?
“I said, I am going to end your existence
when I see you.”
Then he clicks his phone off,
stares into his opened locker,
a big black guy, in his late twenties, I judge.
This part of the locker room
has suddenly gone quiet.
No more discussion of the big game tomorrow
between the Ravens and the Bills.
When I put on my coat and close my locker,
the guy is still sitting half-clothed on the bench.
I’m hoping this is just hyperbole,
and I won’t be reading about it in the newspaper.
Wheel of Fortune
I didn’t enter Sister Faye’s
Psychic Readings shop
like Harry Houdini,
exposing frauds and charlatans,
but I didn’t expect to contact
spirits of the dead, either.
Curiosity and a dare made me do it:
My friend Holly challenged me
when I sent her a cellphone photo,
the storefront with the neon outline
of a cross-legged, turbaned swami,
the words “”Tarot Readings” and “Fortunes”
blinking on and off,
the “t” in “Fortunes” dead
as a cigarette ash.
Incense smothered like a chloroform-soaked hankie,
but I took a seat on the low stool,
gazing hopefully across the candles
guttering on the glass-topped table.
“Your mother misses you,” Sister Faye soothed.
Not a far-fetched guess about my mom,
me a guy in his mid-sixties.
Besides, nobody said she was dead.
But I remembered the last time
I saw my mother, in hospice,
after the multiple organ failure,
several years ago now.
She lay doped-up in a hospital bed,
mostly unconscious, incoherent when awake,
No final moment of recognition.
“Tell her I miss her, too.”
© Luigi Cazzaniga:: ddt
I Vant to Drink Some Blood
I was just eighteen
when I first saw Ingrid Pitt
in The Vampire Lovers –
the décolletage, the heaving breasts –
and learned the word “volupté.”
Embarrassed to admit my crush,
even to myself,
still, I secretly followed her career,
from the minor role in Doctor Zhivago
to playing opposite Burton and Eastwood
in Where Eagles Dare
to the parts in Doctor Who,
and of course when she became a cult figure –
“The Queen of Scream” –
in the vampire films,
Countess Dracula and the rest.
What I hadn’t known
was her early life in the Stutthof concentration camp
outside Danzig, Poland,
her mother a Polish Jew, father German;
her narrow escape from East Germany
ahead of the stasi
the night of her stage debut
in Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children;
her rescue by the American lieutenant Roland Pitt,
whom she later married.
No, it was always about those breasts, for me:
the essence of my private cult worship.
“Maundy Thursday? The ceremony for washing the feet
of the poor,” Mister Jacobs explains,
standing at my teller’s window
while I count out
the weekly pile of bills he comes here for,
one of those old-fashioned people
who doesn’t use an ATM.
He once told me
he’s never used a microwave oven, either.
I’ve just commented we’ll be closed tomorrow
for Good Friday, the weekday he usually comes in.
“Commemorates the Last Supper, too,”
he adds, collecting the bills with jittery hands.
“From the Latin mandatum, ‘commandment,’”
he goes on, such a smart, cuddly old guy,
and I notice again the faint numbers
tattooed on his wrist.
“A Passover Seder,” he mutters,
and I wonder if that’s bitterness I hear
in his voice, or just the way he swallows.
“Happy Easter, Mister Jacobs!” I sing
as he turns away,
the words like birdsong,
more music than meaning,
but he seems to stop in his steps,
as if he wants to argue the point,
but all he does is smile, a little sadly.
“You, too, Denise.”