THERE’S NO POETRY IN BEING POOR

I thought my poverty to be dignified in an artsy sort of way
Chuckling to myself as my car sways on its worn shocks
As the poet José Julián Marti Pérez fancied,

Con los povres de la tierra
Quiero yo mi suerte echar

With the poor people of the earth
I want to place my luck

I thought my small condo in a bad part of town charming
My slim earnings noble; I can get by
And a rich aunt and friends of means to bail me out when I need
I smiled at the cursing and hollering in the parking lot at 3AM
Until crime, the bastard child of the impoverished,
That afternoon my friend limped and I ran to his pickup truck
To scatter the men—one attaching a battery charger, the other in the cab
The 911 calls, the police reports, the perpetrator cursing
In the middle of the night, rambling around our parking lot
Staring me down as I walked to my own car next afternoon
Blasting hip-hop out the window of the owner giving him safe harbor
I dim my condo lights inside so he won’t know where I live
No.  There’s no poetry in being poor, when you have to be poor,
Live in fear, in 911 calls, in crime, in poverty
My friend shook for three days straight
And I, two weeks later, might practice my keyboards
With a nightstick within reach, and my phone

I CAN’T PRACTICE TONIGHT

My own car is parked across town at my partner’s place
I can’t practice my keyboards tonight
Making music is a far cry from nowhere, now
In this scattered mind driven to alarmed glances out the window
Every ten minutes by anxiety from the 911 call
I made again only three days ago, and three days before that
In broad daylight the first time, and then at 4AM the second time
I was still up, reading, when they vandalized my friend’s pickup truck
They attached a charger to his battery the first time with obvious intent
Same guys, same truck, same hollering obscenities at 3AM, loud hip-hop
Blaring in the parking lot from the apartment that lets him in
We glared eye-to-eye while I walked from the doorway to my own car
Next day, and I don’t know how it would have turned out
Had it come to other than eye contact, watching my every move
It isn’t just my dimmed apartment lights
—I don’t think he knows which window is mine—
It’s more my alarmed glance out the window at every clamor
Thump, car-door shut, every yell from the parking lot, or scream
My mobile phone always within reach, my scattered nerves
—I don’t want another Night on Bald Mountain—
My own car parked across town tonight, at my partner’s place
I can’t practice my keyboards tonight

Strange Conversation in a Music Store

“Man, did I get wasted last night!”

“I was listening to a sensitive performance of Beethoven’s 6th Symphony on the radio.  It really moved me.”

“I was doing V.O. shots.  And reds.  Man, did I get wasted.”

“I’ve been practicing Bach’s D Minor Toccata and Fugue when there aren’t any customers.  I can play the Toccata though, but I’m only beginning the Fugue.”

“I was beyond high.  I was WAS-TED!”

“The keyboard is the most graphic representation of music of any instrument.  All the tonal relationships are there in the keys, visibly.”

His interlocutor shook his head, “Say what?!  So do you want to go into the stock room and get high?”

“Doesn’t it make you paranoid to deal with the public when you’re high?”

“No.  Because you know you’re high and they know you’re high and you sell them organs.”

“OK.”