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Fall/Winter 2017

Puma Perl


Here I am at 7:06 PM standing on line outside the Poetry Project

It’s a mild October evening barely crisp enough for a leather jacket
                over a Keith Richards shirt

Doors at 7:30, line stretches around corners, I need a front row seat
                I don’t always hear so well these days

We are celebrating Eileen Myles I remember taking her book home
from      the Neither/Nor Bookstore on 6th Street, entranced
                by her handsome tomboyness,
                her white shirt rolled to the elbows,
                her jeans so ripped and faded you could feel the softness

The slight hint of a mullet in a Ramones sort of way, arms crossed
yet still approachable and on the back cover in that same shirt
                lighting a cigarette,
                       Budweiser and pack of Marlboros on the desk,
                brick walls and a typewriter, yes, a typewriter and

I don’t remember whether I ever paid Rick for the book, probably not

After all, it was 1981 and I never paid for anything and it strikes me
                that few of the chattering girls around me were alive in 1981

I don’t remember much about 1981 but I do remember a typewriter
                on a kitchen table and I remember Bimbo Rivas and Pedro Pietri
                          shouting poems in the street but maybe I don’t remember

Maybe I don’t remember if I was really there or thought I must have
              been there because I must have been somewhere, isn’t                 
everyone? Always?

Here I am at 7:18 PM and the line stretches around two corners
                I’m pretty sure I am where I stand and
                not somebody else I used to know
                as the girls chatter and the boys shuffle their feet

All of the girls are pretty but aren’t all young girls pretty?
                Was I? Or was I somebody else even then?

I can’t see him but I’m sure Pedro’s long coat touched the ground
                when he stooped down to catch that last can of beer
                as it rolled from the brown paper bag

I remember the poet’s young sisters laughing as they recalled
                Bimbo’s voice so loud in the park he shook the trees

Maybe it was a night I wasn’t there. I was somewhere, but I can still
see the bandshell where the homeless slept, where my daughter
learned to climb stairs but it’s not there any more and neither
are Bimbo or Pedro or the poet with the laughing sisters

But somehow I am, without reason or a hat, I am

And here I am, it’s 7:27 PM outside the St. Mark’s Church
                In three minutes doors will open and several hours from now
                                the doors will close

I’ll leave by myself, remaining who I am, walk down Second Avenue
                         across Seventh Street, past the park, and two, no three,
                                                places I’ve lived

Past the invisible bandshell, and the silent voices of grown children

Here I am, it is 7:30 PM and the line moves and we start to advance
                just a little bit, just a little bit, we move forward

Puma Perl is a widely published poet and writer, and has four solo collections in print. She is the producer and creator of Puma Perl’s Pandemonium, which brings spoken word together with rock and roll, and performs regularly with her band, Puma Perl and Friends. She is also an award winning freelance journalist and writes for the Villager.



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