Two Poems by Mary Shanley

The Oldest Part of the City
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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