check engine light romance

Gray mascara on the sky

over Monroe Avenue, the artery of this town.

When I pull up to the drive-thru at McDonalds

I switch Tom Waits for 98PXY. A lot of advertisements happen. It’s Huuuuge.

Hey, Anthony, I text, Meet me at the train

Past Scio. Sigh-oh. I whisper. I look like a mark in this coat.

Rochester is pretty yet so

common like a starling (Kodak photo fixer,

years dead, pooled in the river)  and I know it’s only fifteen minutes big.

Who doesn’t have a fine from the stoplight cameras,

a Lucky7 scratch-off dollar win (the smudgy pink and green one)?

Who else is kneeling with a temp-work prayer? They’re deep, the prayers.

They lead to a blessed life. Kiss the knuckle

of your hand when you say it; cross the air.

But it’s what they call a service-rich place

to end up down inside. HomelessKelly tells me “Sky for free.”

Also, copper’s at a premium, and social workers

paid to help even at the library downtown.   I stress the engine light;

it blinks twice a week, neither of us

frozen into (arsenic) acceptance, the gentle killer kind.

I tap the steering wheel, gently, say Claudia, c’mon now

Baby, shhh.  Next to a garage on Richland in the South Wedge,

She hangs her clothes in the birch trees.


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