After a night of rough trade
In the bug house
I dream of rolling in the back of a long black limousine

            Back to town from the country
The Hudson River on my right
                        With November notions of ice sliding by.

My driver, a guy from Long Island named Michael
Is a regular guy, a guy I can talk to
Who drove ten years for Saturday Night Live

            Has The Supremes on the player.

Night falls and we glide
                        Past a city of wet pavement

Seasoned jaundice yellow by the streetlamps
Reflecting New York, London in the shadows, Amsterdam
            Below the horizon
      A palimpsest slouching toward Los Angeles
Whose steel and concrete and trash can fires
            And smell of fish
Solidly defy the digital transfer of paper money.

It’s a Carey car, a black Lincoln
      With tinted glass, solid doors and electric windows
            That glide in silence
                        Hired by the hour
Taking me to dinner
            At an overpriced neighborhood place
Where you might see Eddie Murphy or Tom Cruise

                                    (Knowing the bourgeois
                              Spends less on his food
                                    than the workman
                  I take all my meals in expensive restaurants
                                                In solidarity, leaving
                              Always an extravagant tip).

Stop with me here a while and soon
            You’ll know everyone on this street
The doormen, the cops, the waitress on a break, the driver
Smoking against the fender or asleep in the car, the woman
On a bicycle with her hands in her back pockets, the guys
Too proud for the shelter who think of the economy
As something natural, like waves or the wind, blowing
            Hot and cold, guys
whose jobs have gone south, and their women
Who know they’re not coming back. I arc through them
Like a dolphin or a lifeguard who must
            Coldly keep his distance until
                        The drowning are ready to give themselves up
                                                To salvation or the sea.

When I wake up I remember days

            When my grandfather, a longshoreman
Who could squeeze a nickel till the Indian howled

            Took me to banks like cathedrals
                                    Or train stations
Back when train stations were train stations.

Rolling downtown in his new Olds eighty-eight

                        At the death of his third wife
                                    Whose first husband

            Made his money in a string of dry cleaners
Into a new Cadillac
                                    Every two years need it or not.

The judgment of slick slabs of alabaster marble
            Crossed with rivers of red carpets

            The natural geometry of shameless and understood
Surveillance and the hardon
                                    Of the implied ability to punish

                                                Along with the rippled hush
                        Of stacks of folding money, deposits
                                    Dating back to the end of Black Reconstruction
When millions were liberated from the land
            And delivered to the bosses.            My grandfather
Always voted Republican in a Democratic district
                        And longed for New York

            Lighting his cigars with hundred dollar bills, buying me
A fifty dollar hooker named Viper
                        On my fourteenth birthday
Real movie stuff.

            Having come to it late, he saw
The abstract of capital rise to the concrete of money, his verb
                                    And his days on the docks
            Sending twenty-five centuries of philosophy packing.

He never caught on, my grandfather, that real money
            Invisible money
                        New York money
                                    Never had to raise its voice
Above a whisper.

He never posed the world
            Any real danger, was always daring you
                        To step on his blue suede shoes.


            In the Jesus dreams he looks like John Malkovich
Skinny and pale, sneering and whining
In a bar or on a pier, feeding seagulls, me and Christ
                        Two white guys sitting around talking.

He says he hasn’t slept in years.
                        Every night
            The same thing, staring past me like a guy
      Who did two tours in Nam, running the same lines
                        Every night

            He would insist he wasn’t white,
Like those white people who tell you at parties
That they’re a quarter Cherokee
                        Or that their great-grandmother on their mother’s side
      Was black.

Someone this swarthy in a Lexus, he tells me
      Would always get pulled over in Beverly Hills, every time
I tell him not any more, but he’s pacing now
Running his hands through his hair, talking
            Talking like he’ll die if he stops.

            Who do you know has a dinner party when he knows

            The cops are coming in the morning.
                         Twelve guys who will disappear when the heat shows
                                    Just talking, talking about themselves

                                    Paul was a boring fanatic and still owes me
                        Twenty bucks, Judas,
            He’s the only one

            I’d still talk to.            And not just
Because he was so beautiful he didn’t care
                        Who your daddy was.

When they killed me
                                    Only my mother and a hooker showed up.

                                     Two fathers can make you an orphan

Working for the homeless. Nobody talks about it,

            But my mother spent her golden years drunk. A guy
                        From the country lives in town
            Could do worse than keep his mouth shut.
                        When I remind him about that twenty bucks
            He just says “To Caesar what is Caesar’s

            To God what is God’s”
                        Big talk with all the residuals,
                                    The real estate bought on margin

                                    And the deferred money
                        I’ll give him Caesar, do I look like
            God to you?


Michael tells me how difficult
Steve Martin could be. His wife was nice though.
I tell him how I knew a guy in the tank

Got kicked out of the navy for lying
About his epilepsy. He told them,
Some captain and a guy in a suit

That he didn’t have epilepsy.
But they said he was in a world of hurt
If he didn’t sign away his pension.

He hopped the next transport back to Carolina
And it hit a wind shear and had to crash land
At a top secret Air Force base somewhere

In West Virginia where soldiers waited
With machine guns at the end of the slide
And rows of B-52s hummed in the distance.

Steve Martin once played a white guy who thought
He was black and would get in the car and say drive
When Michael would say where, he’d say just drive

As though he would die if he stopped moving.
What they thought was epilepsy turned out
To be a brain tumor that wasn’t found

Until he’d pushed a Wheeling Avis all
The way to San Diego to see about a girl
He knew from Atlantic City, who swirled

With breath and her hair all pretty, kissed him
Hard and said she was engaged to a Navy captain
Take me to the beach. I knew him

In the house, after they put the plate in his head
Long after the time when pushed like Judas
Up against the wall by the Roman heat

I would’ve palmed Caesar’s nickel and told them
Don’t piss, don’t shit, don’t fuck
Until I call you. Do nothing

Until you hear from me. Back then
I worked like I didn’t need the job
Danced like nobody was looking

I could play any song with only three chords
I wore black high top Converse All-Stars
Across the parade ground unlaced before Joey Ramone

Was out of diapers and then did the push-ups
On my fingertips. Before the cock crowed
Three times I knew every day was a good day

To die.

You can only dodge sleep for so long.


The slow, steady slide in increments that don’t register
            Across the span from green to bloodless pale
                                    Has left me breathless
                              As though I’d jumped
                                                                        Down the emergency slide
Into the fire-killing foam
                        Covering the wet tarmac of a West Virginia airbase

To find myself in the back of this car

Where Michael has switched to NPR
Where Ken Wiwa says, “It’s hard to carry on
                                                            With the activities of your life
                        When your father’s been hanged.”

            My own father was an engineer
                        A man of aqueducts and sluices
                                    Who wanted me to be a writer, having no idea
What assholes writers can be.

            As I know my life
The way I know every guy on every street corner
                                    I have no need to speak.

Stepping lost from the limo

Late in the evening the lingering smell of weddings
            Stirs the petals of lost religion
                                    And seeps into all the corners of the world.

The sly little despairs of descent can fool you
            Gathering grains without shadows
                                    Stacked like another novel

About somebody’s divorce
            With quiet vengeance in a corner
                                    Until faith doubles back

On how I could have lived
            With my seeds outside my skin
                                    Like strawberries.

The pavement soft beneath my heels
            Bearing me up like a small boy
                        On his father’s shoulders

Wondering what I wouldn’t give
            To know again the feel of my own skin
                        Or taste any word that hasn’t already been chewed.

Missing you in hell

Wait for me, wait
For me please.

And I’ll see you in my dreams.

R. D. Girard | Mudlark No. 21
Contents | Til Her Daddy Takes Her T-Bird Away