Two Poems by Mary Shanley

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The Oldest Part of the City
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Sometimes, if you lay very still,
you can feel the web tremble.
.
With the multiple corpses
we drag around inside us,
.
I was wearying, and then
the air changed, and I was
in motion,
.
Take me to the oldest part of the city,
where there are faded names of casinos
.
and loan sharks on the windows.
Where there is one greasy spoon among
.
a scarce population of people for whom
there is nothing to be done. Faces, hair
.
and clothing are all from the distant past.
There are whispers and murmurs
among the remnants.
.
Take me to the oldest part of the city,
to the Four Queens Casino,
.
where I can dialogue with my dreams;
where I can pretend to be a card shark;
.
where the ash on one of the heavily made up,
senior’s cigarette, is one inch long
.
Take me to the oldest part of the city,
where there is no difference between you and me.
.
But, how then, will I know who you are to me?
There are some things that nobody knows.
.
It is all hidden in the oldest part of the city.
.
Choke Talk
.
Frankie smokes on the fly
outside the Duane Reade store,
where she works as a cashier.
Every break and lunch hour,
Frankie pulls on a Camel
non-filter; her head lowered,
as if shame accompanied
every inhale.
.
I tried to figure Frankie’s age.
with her slight black figure
and defeat etched into the lines
on her face, Frankie looks older
than language.
.
When I stop for a quick, “Hello,”
Frankie attempts to speak. She
barely has enough oxygen to choke
out a, “Hello.” Like a balloon losing
air, now I see Frankie, now I don’t;
as she fades in full sight.
.
Mary Shanley is a poet/storyteller living with her wife in NYC.
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