On the corner of Second Avenue
waiting for the light to turn
red, my legs begin to vibrate
then my hands. I almost run
to the ER three blocks away
until I realize I’ve been standing
over the subway and the No. 4
on its way uptown. I calm down
and relax knowing by the time
it reaches Fourteenth Street I’ll be cured.
When the light turns, I wait
a few moments since I hate
change, adjust to the new color,
then hurry across the street.
A new deli has signs stuck on
its windows advertising soda,
beer and heroes. I don’t need
drinks and I doubt if Michael Jordan
is in stock, who would be worth
the $4.50 to help me with my jump
shot. I lean against a meter to decide
where to go then put a quarter
in it when a cop walks by
to prove I’m not loitering now
that I parked. It turns out
I am thirsty; even with ten
minutes left on the meter, I head
for the bar at the end of the block.
As soon as I take a seat
my mind finally cracks but I don’t
panic and when it happens
again, I’m relieved its only
a pool game in the back room.
I’m proud that I didn’t panic
or lose my head this time.
To celebrate I make sure all
the beers I order lose theirs.
On my way home, I pass
the tenement near Third, the tall
one with at least six stories,
the top three I never even read.
Sitting on the steps a guy
thinner than my wallet, asks
if I want pussy. It reminds me
of the two kittens, a woman
on the first floor gave me, that are now
sleeping in a box in the kitchen.
When he asks again, I tell him
no thanks I have all I can handle
at home. As I cross the street
he yells, then you are a lucky
man. A couple of seconds later
it dawns on me, the sun moving
from my shoes to my eyes,
that he’s right. I am a lucky man,
a very lucky man.
A: My favorite place to write is in my apartment in NYC. Although I can write anywhere, as long as I have the concentration of an ancient monk.
Q: Do you remember the first poem you read that really blew your mind?
A: Fern Hill by Dylan Thomas showed me how you can bend language and most importantly the power of imagery.
Q: What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you in the
last 12 months?
A: My nephew who is a sophomore in college and a gifted writer started his own streetwear company called Paradigm and showed me that creativity and business can actually benefit one another in the way that poetry can benefit prose writing.
Kevin Pilkington is on the full-time writing staff at Sarah Lawrence College and teaches a workshop in the graduate program at Manhattanville College. His latest poetry collection The Unemployed Man Who Became a Tree was just released by Black Lawrence Press. A novel entitled Summer Shares will also appear this summer.