On city streets


POW Prompt 20

Great photo.  Rall pairs it with Bukowski’s YOUNG IN NEW ORLEANS

My New Orleans was St Petersburg, Florida. I met some old leftists, blacklisted vaudevillians, and a guy named Ronnie who wanted to blow up the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and had stories about Jack Kerouac. There were women who wore minks to afternoon dances once a month, and treated themselves to tea and dry toast afterward. Apocryphal couples: a blind man, a wife who couldn’t drive was his seeing eye passenger. There were mermaids in department stores and a replica Bounty in the harbor. I was broke most of the time, waiting tables for dime tips.

Suzanne in St Petersburg

Suzanne is standing, barefoot
on the sandspur-mined sidewalk.
In St Petersburg, the sunshine is falling
like a whiteout
onto her sunburned shoulders,
into her bleached-out brain.
She rummages the gutter
and dusty weeds for bottles.
The man behind the liquor store
takes glass for smoke and quarters.

Suzanne is wrapped in void from her hair
into her soul; in the glare she dodges contact
by the echo of her coughing.

Buildings pass her by as she stands inside her daze:
she knows the suncoast street
by the odors of its doorways.
The bar comes breathing whiskey
and beer soaked into concrete, the shop
repairing motors reeks ozone
laced with three-in-one oil.

She cringes from the grocery ripe with
old fruit and charcoal, as fearsome as
the carnal lure of coney island hot dogs.

Suzanne is starved on noodles, margarine
and light bread, eaten without hunger
while she searches through the rubbish
hollow for whisper of her name.



  1. You do grim well. I like the old ladies in the minks with dry toast and tea (even though they weren’t in the poem)Bet they had
    long varnished finger nails with diamond rings.

    • It’s a grim picture. Beautiful, though.
      The old gals, most of them were abysmally poor, living on widow’s share of their dead husbands’ social security checks, and lucky if the room they rented could have a hot plate (most of the landlords banned them). The ones who had never worked themselves were hideous to wait on, still tipping pre-war amounts if they tipped at all, and resenting that nickle to the core.

    • That’s an interesting thought. It may be a little strong to say “happy”, but my guess is that any life that isn’t in immediate danger boils down about the same. Of course the details matter, but how much attention do we really give to what surrounds our internal monologue?

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