Roger, by his window,
with a cigarette aglow–
A small break from his writing,
In different groups,
by different paths,
figures in the mist went past.
So many faces, in the crowd,
Roger, smoking, looked around–
The old church bell began to sound.
Below the tower people scattered,
like roaches when the light comes on–
weary went the travelers home.
Except for one girl–thin–alone,
who struggled with an old cellphone.
Above had hung a sun sick, yellow,
Light dancing on her glass umbrella.
The night was young, the streets were old,
silent sat she shivering cold.
She wore a ruddy satin dress;
How sad, he thought, she did her best.
A Picasso face, a Rembrandt smile
She turned her wide eyes to the sky.
Her hair a mess, her make up stained,
she heard the harbinger of rain.
Lines of dry mascara on her cheek,
In patterns down her face were weaved.
Her lips a tinge of sweetest pink
a hint of blush upon her cheek.
Her ivory skin, her face so fair,
left Roger–transfixed–standing there.
The prophesy fulfilled down came the rain;
She called and waited, no one came.
Her firefly had not arrived,
No signal, no one home, she cried;
If flowers spoke, she thought, they’d lie.
When on the cusp about to die,
with their fellows to lay down,
seeds for the coming rose
Fit for a scarlet crown.
And with longing Roger saw,
through his self-made prison wall–
For all his life he tried to find,
Someone quite like him in mind;
To find a day in such a way,
that he could save and tuck away,
So that someday he could say,
he had no greater debt to pay.
How could I help, he thought,
what could I do?
For Roger knew sir Desperation too.
Three drunks approached her,
and they stumbled
as they tried to walk.
With hesitation she approached them,
And she tried to talk.
Averse to her, two of them passed,
The last man in the caravan
Spit beer in her face and laughed.
Roger stood back from the glass aghast.
To see someone so young
To be treated such a way;
As it goes, the wise men say:
It’s easy to love from far away.
stumbling as they walked;
She walked toward them—
Tried to talk:
Averse to her two of them passed,
and the last man in that caravan
spit beer in her face and laughed.
Roger stood back from his lens,
his pallid face aghast.
Easy as it to care from far away,
To watch from far away,
As he had in the past—
He thought about bottle,
A handful of pills, a chance:
He could with false courage ask,
The slighted prostitute to dance.
With his mind’s eye he could see, and heard:
Roses at her callused feet—a bird
of paradise locked in a concrete cage,
no where fair for her to stray.
A flight of fancy, just a day,
He’d give her somewhere warm to stay—
somewhere to be loved:
in a soft bed warm, silk quilts,
Free as a snow-white dove.
A random face, some stranger, why?
What would be his alibi,
To her he was another guy—
With Romance in his veins, he based
The poetic songs he sang on some gaudy play.
Perhaps, he thought, warm, under cover—
She’d sleep in peace for someone loved her.
No need for cash, nor for a cost,
For her to take her fake pearl necklace off.
Roger took a bath and shaved,
put on cologne and after-shave:
Pants of royal blue his jacket black,
A white waist-coat and silk cravat.
Returning to his seat, where was she at?
By his telescope he sat to rest,
the quiet murmur in his chest but to suggest—
the red sun bled dead in the west;
he reclined and lit a cigarette.
The day was aging and turned wet;
Roger’s illness, and his symptoms,
Electrified his nervous system:
The pain would not relent, he went,
To the bottle and he sent:
Seven pills and then he saw,
Her re-emerge with woolen shawl:
Five more pills down, he locked the door,
And hurried down the hall.
Within moments he was another figure
To crawl under the light rainfall.
The streets were full and in and out,
Roger stumbled through the crowd:
He approached her slow and silent, dumb,
His heart to flight the pills had numbed;
Meek was his face, and he asked her:
‘Are you a ballerina or a dancer?’
‘How did you know?’ she asked, surprised.
‘I’ve seen you from my room so many times, he lied;
The clothes we wear are a disguise.
The only way to know someone by empathy—
Is to see your own reflection in their eyes.
‘I was a ballerina,’ said she. ‘Yes.’
‘Would you dance with me?’
‘If you insist.’
Roger took her by the hand,
And led her through the Western Lands,
as they ran down the road;
they delighted in the rain and snow.
They were lost figures in the mist,
toward they went an unknown tryst.
Blind chance there was no plan.
they fled into his fantasies,
Vodka, morphine on the Nevsky,
He dared to hope she wouldn’t leave
when died the eve at Dawn’s rebirth;
A phantasm of hope she was,
yet she was not the first.
Her departure o’er hung—
Faith was the botfly in his lungs.
They emerged in a bleak country-side;
Chopin in his mind, they, side-by-side,
Not one to speak, nor one reply:
To Roger all was quiet inside—
The first time in so long a while
He forgot himself and smiled.
They went back to his flat at nine,
Kissing as they slipped inside.
At the house a brief carouse;
They shared a glass of wine.
And all was fine, and all ways right—
He offered prayers to the night.
All was silent in his mind,
Conscious as he was passing time,
He memorized each line, each rhyme.
He knew how to hold a song,
And how to keep on when gone.
Another man adapted to a life alone.
In his room—no pain,
No electric currents in his veins:
It was as though a host of angels sang.
They made a mat of pillows on the bedroom floor:
‘I’ll be back,’ he said;
After he unplugged the clock,
He made sure his front door was locked.
‘Natalie,’ she said, expectant, vexed;
‘Roger’ he replied and by her sat.
‘Please,’ said she, ‘would you tell me—
You didn’t come to me for sex.’
‘I never wanted to do—
Anything you would forget.
Instead I’d like to show you,
a night you won’t forget.
I’d like for you to stay, we’ll play:
I’ll pay for every hour.
You’ll sleep on a bed of flowers;
I’ll sleep on the couch—
you are most welcome in my house.’
‘A game,’ she said, she stoked the flame,
‘Let’s play make-believe;
I’ll be your adoring life,
And you’ll be the man of my dreams—
Everything I’d dreamed you’d be.
Dress me up, do as you want;
Tonight I’m yours, and yours alone—
But I must be gone by dawn.’
Roger took his wallet from his pocket,
She took his hand and whispered, ‘stop it.’
His eyes were focused on a locket,
Golden resting on her powdered bust;
She was like a porcelain doll,
her fingernails like rust.
It glowed, it shone, it beamed,
True love is akin to seeing:
a flawed, unfinished, painted being:
an outline to be colored in by time.
To celebrate a presence,
and in one’s heart begin—
to thrill at the touch, to feel the pulse,
the touch of knowing:
upon the altar of unquestioned adoration throwing,
to follow blind and follow dumb,
from the sweetest wine to bitter rum.
To love someone when all is right
is most welcome a delight;
To soldier on when all is wrong,
Get past the madness, carry on;
When weak, when bleak, love isn’t gone.
It’s behind the night where lies the sun,
the light of true compassion will return.
No tears, no fears—it never dies:
A rose from concrete has been known to rise.
How strange our nights and days on Earth,
From mother Earth so unlike was a birth;
Ne’er knowing why, he could not speak;
Roger rose and kissed the Sinner’s feet.
From his point of view, he knew:
She lived for him; he for her too:
So tranquil a sentiment,
Startled she knew not what to do.
From his standpoint Roger knew,
The holiest of holy Truth:
The tranquil understanding dawned again;
from the standpoint of our daily role, is known,
we are here for we, and in the end,
A life of love to live for fellow men—
And for a while, for those whose smiles,
Of family, and strangers, friends:
On which our happiness depends.
The dying fire danced in both their eyes;
So many cups like time had long gone dry.
Watching the sparks Roger remarked:
“I’d like to know you,” Roger said.
“I’d rather get inside your head
Than lay naked with you in a bed.
Why not stay with me?” he asked,
And poured her another glass.
“I’ll get you a rose red dress,
we’ll sleep in a king-sized bed”
He felt his heart throb in his head,
and he knew were to go—
Where the bottle was when she said No.
He stopped her when she tried to talk,
Rose to his feet, he barely walked—
To the bathroom down the hall,
he stood in the dim-lit stall,
staring in the mirror with each blink growing clearer:
he filled his empty hand with seven pills.
She was there—it’s nothing for nothing—she is real;
A moment passed he trailed away,
and blinking found a sunlit day:
His mother young, he heard her say:
You’re the most precious thing I’ve ever saw!
His father was alive and young he saw them all,
he blinked again and he was face first in the hall.
He heard music, some lady singed:
‘Estuans interis irae vehementes.’
The clock on the wall read eleven o’ five;
It’s not so bad to be alive.
The bedroom by the dying fire lit,
Back in the room he felt that handful hit:
His muscles eased off bit by bit;
She turned a wond’ring face to him,
“Would you like another glass?”
He nodded, sat, relaxed, polite:
“To pry into your life I have no right.
It’s enough to be with you tonight.”
“Will I end up in a notebook?”
She gestured ‘round him and he looked.
“What?” he asked.
“Is it true?”
“It’s all I really have to do.”
“Then what matters my life to you?
Will you put me in some clichéd plot,
and with time put me in a box and under lock,
with the rest of all these notebooks in this room?”
“I write,” he said. “It’s how I feel.”
“Why confine your life to paper tombs?”
“It’s the only way that I can deal;
a pen, a notebook, and my pills.
That’s the why: why do I write?
I thought that you’d know what it’s like.”
As his face dimmed hers glowed, so bright.
I sometimes long to be back there, that night,
When she said, “Ask me anything you’d like.”
I was warm and numb and inside quiet.
Five more pills—I thought I’d try it.
“Just tell me about yourself.”
“I’m not much different than anyone else.
The hard luck story is, for me,
exactly what you see;
A lost whore in the rain, a nobody.”
Roger said, “That’s it; exactly.”
“With me it’s the same old story;
It’s long and lame and kind of boring.
And like my father, when he was bored,
tied a length of rubber cord
around my arm, each hit, each sup—
I saw God when I shot up.
And growing was alone for years,
stealing wine and drinking beers.
No family no friends or peers.
I didn’t take a bath for years.
Just me and a glowing screen,
looking for someone like me,
so when I sent that bullet home—
I wouldn’t have to die alone.”
Back then I didn’t think there was a chance,
two miserable children of God
Could save each other with a dance.
One quiet dance to wash it all away,
the long and miserable nights and unending days.
I don’t believe—but then I prayed;
that my misery could be assuaged
That she wouldn’t leave when came the day.
And in the end not leave again—again—she’s gone.
What Roger saw, or thought, he read:
From her face, a young girl in bed:
Reading while the others ran around outside,
her isolation was a choice, her pride.
And those same passing faces walk the streets by night,
the creatures and the heathens haven taking all the light,
From her eyes now dead once bright:
And oh! how she longed to be
a ballerina or a dancing queen.
For treats the other kids would come to her, a taste,
put her in rich furs and paint her face,
And all those men they would their queen adore;
The drug of choice for the junkie is more.
Everything she had, he mused,
was paid for when she was abused;
In public she was meek and mild,
though in imagination wild.
There was no lining in the clouds,
no sun behind that could with light bring hope,
Nor would spring bring the wheat of ‘Morrow’s Gold;
Her life and all that she was worth-she sold,
in the rain and in the cold—
And every year as she got old,
There was one thing that she had learned,
It’s better to regret to stay,
than regret to go.
“Is that your story—whore in the rain?
Some girl who you’d be a saint and save?
Abusive father, drunken mother;
Little sister how I miss her.
She had an all-American disease.
I’m not quite sure what Annie had,
but she spent all day in a bath,
her back was covered in scales and scabs.
I was five when Annie died,
and mother was but thirty-five.
A shrieking wreck, she lost her mind,
I went with her across the great divide.
And every day when by I turn,
that little mother fucking urn—
I get sick, my stomach turns.
My heart inside my chest—it burns!
“So you thought you’d be a hero,
and put me in fancy clothes,
then bend me until I am in your favorite pose.
Make-up, perfume, pearl earrings—
No one wants the me they see,
only what they can make of me.
Until the pose and dress is right,
then I’m perfect! Spend the night.
Another girl is custom made,
like so many dolls with which to play.
That must be what it takes, for me,
For me to matter, not just a face:
A fantasy some real world girl replaced:
Those doll painted faces aren’t me.
But you’re different, you see;
It can’t be bought but love is cheap.
It’s not the hours, it’s the thought,
one can be with friends and still be lost.
And in a crowded room one can still feel alone.
A light amidst the dark,
It may prove hard to spot.
As a star by night can be by day forgot.
It might not have occurred to you,
but prostitutes have feelings too.
And everyone—they have their price;
The other girls dress just as nice.
Would you act the same
to a girl you’d meet at the mall?
No, you’d get her number but you’d never call.
You’d follow at a distance first,
watch from your telescope, or worse!
So put me in your fancy dress,
and tell yourself I did my best.”
“What does that say about my life?”
Roger tentatively replied.
“I chain smoke cigarettes; I write.
That’s how I spend my nights,
Nothing else—there’s no one there;
I don’t clean ‘cause no one cares.
Others they have cars and jobs, and friends,
I have my isolation and it never ends.
Nothing to do, nowhere to go;
I sit at home and dream, I know—
There was one point in my life,
when everything, it seemed alright;
Not bad, not good, but I could deal.
I create worlds inside my head,
for I have nothing real.
Why do you think I play this game?
Why want someone to recall my name?
Remember me, that’s all I say;
In every song, it doesn’t change.
“Am I so petty and so truculent,
To make pathetic such an argument,
For someone someday just to say,
That old maniac—he made my day.
What a story! What a line!
I’ve never read such brilliant rhymes.
I thought that it would come, with time,
And if not—back to the cup, back to the battle,
Each taste, each sup,
Is but another substitute for love.
Back to the needle or the bottle,
I’ve had enough;
Enough of the roaches,
Kingdom of the ants, this fucking trash!
Alone and tortured by my past,
It’s a miserable sort of life to live,
when you know you’ve nothing left to give.”
To know you’ve nothing left to give.
“Let us take a walk,” she said.
“Along the Nevsky, all is dead—
I long to see the dawn;
Then it’s over, time is up, you are gone;
Another customer and I move on.
Back into the alleyways,
the concrete jungles and the maze,
like some rat, but yet, no cheese;
Before I go, I wish to see—
The Goddess Sol to rise, for you and me;
And we walk in different ways,
on that bridge when light, in rays,
the ornate bridge in color bathes:
It’s almost as though I’ve seen the sun
through closed eyes arise at night:
I always thought it was a game,
and alas! I know!
Take what you can, the cash in hand–
let the credit go!
You only get to past one aisle,
the game itself is time;
and time, for us, so little left—
Just me and you, there’s no else.”
“I wanted to know love and joy,
not painted like a doll.
I wanted someone—you, of all,
To dance with me, until we fall:
Not be paid to take my fake pearl earrings off.
And me and you, on the bridge,
on the Nevsky just above,
a pitch black Russian sea;
It took a stranger to come in,
into my life, that I could see—
What the world could truly be.
More than just some fantasy,
and yet it seems surreal to me;
And time, oh how it gets away,
from us, and then it fades.”
“And yet you’ve saved me, anyway,
from a life, a painting on a wall forgotten:
Not another in a bustling crowd, a face,
to stand out amongst the rest and with that I think I’ve said,
in and out, in and out without—
There was a flame, you’ve put it out,
no need for me now to burn.
That’s what love is all about:
One lilac given is the face of God.”
And they walked together,
they come upon the bridge and sat,
on a bench the sun to catch:
and when the sun began to rise,
and they calm, they both arise:
Roger stood and watched the dawn
The sun it drove the day along.
It played on the water such,
a lovely iridescent song.
And that tranquility, he saw,
Marina with him rose as well;
and quiet on that bridge they stood,
she took off her babushka hood;
It fluttered with the morning wind.
he knew it would not come;
he had his night; the night was done;
It would not come again.
With her arms stretched out, she leaned back,
and fell into the Nevsky with a laugh.
A moment later Roger her the splash;
The prostitute was swept away;
Marina disappeared that day.
He watched her as she fell,
into that pitch black liquid hell;
And in the snow, he slow, walked home,
and thereby sat his pen to stone;
And with that Roger, leaving passed,
hearing that echo and that laugh,
he took up his pen and pad.