A Lovely Place

[Note: This is my attempt at imitating the style of John Ashbery’s The Instruction Manual. I am not particularly proud of this poem -I’m not even sure if this is considered a poem, I feel that my sentences are too long – and astounded it took all of my Sunday to write. Nevertheless, I put all of my effort into writing and editing this poem, since it did experience several major plot changes. I would love to know what you think of it, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment!]

As my hands shiver without gloves (forgotten again – tragedy),
My body wants nothing more than to be at PATH World Trade Center
I must avoid the wet parts of the floor and side step those running to catch the departing train
Don’t they know by the time they get there, the train will be already gone?
I harbor no pity for them; I am always roughly pushed aside by those types.
Desperation does not always bear miracles, Latecomers.

‘Twas another long day I did not expect.
Alas, how is one to know the day’s events?
Black coffee can only energize me for so long
There’s the faint smell of cigarettes, something that shouldn’t be
along with food and alcoholic beverages not to be consumed during the train ride
I secure a seat on the train, and lean my back against the seat’s angled blue contours
there’s a flare of heat from the last occupant
People enter hurriedly and claim remaining seats while
those standing eye potential spots of those who might get off at Grove Street
In the midst of this hustle, bustle, whiney voices, and exasperated sighs
a married couple and their son, dressed for a special occasion, sit opposite
a pearl necklace adorns the mother’s neck; she looks lovingly at the father, and he to her
their son sits between them and looks back and forth between the two
his excitement is contagious; it makes me smile ‘cause he reminds me of my brother
office workers play games on their IPads and don’t give their seat to pregnant women
people squint at the incandescent glare of their phone screens; some attempt a last minute phone call
some peruse newspapers and absent-mindedly push their spectacles up and
the reserved listen to their boom bass hip hop music from their earphones,
yo-yoing their heads; “Express YO-self” has never been so true in commuter culture

Tonight, there’s the special appearance of a guitarist
homeless, no doubt, by way of the holes in his faded jeans and black and red plaid button-down shirt
his gap-toothed smile tucked between his salt-and-pepper beard
the guitarist’s lover is slung loosely around his torso, a gleaming brunette for one that looks so old
strumming,  he begins his melancholic tune of a Hotel California, “a lovely place”
his song choice evokes images of home, the West Coast – I can’t bear to be on this train any longer
I turn my head away, and look into the cup of my peppermint green tea
it reflects a portion of the window and greets me with a blanket of stars;
I know those stars would look the same in Hotel California.
Booking a room there, my sketch pad, watercolors, fine liners, and pastels would fit its rustic charm.
The room is only a little bigger than a closet
with a bed, a wide window with turquoise floor length curtains, and a rickety table
the creaky floorboards are used to their presence and wonder about my origins
Phantom glowing comes from the candle holders on the walls,
and there is the smell of sea salt that floats its way to this niche
Exhausted, I leave my backpack and carry-on on the floor by the door and throw myself at the bed – undoubtedly a bad idea, but my aching muscles do not complain at the stench of sweat, smoke, and tears
a thousand or more wrinkles have etched the blankets on this bed, memories that cannot be undone
I stand up and wander to the window, turquoise curtains billowing in a come-hither motion
each step makes the floor whine
I try to imagine myself as a ballerina, pirouetting across the stage into the arms of my lover
Though I fall not into someone’s arms, a faint zephyr welcomes me with
an embrace that pulls my eyes downward to fairy lights, and an open patio of activity
as elegantly as possibly, I lean my head forward and peer below

there’s a bar in the corner, slow with activity told by the bar tender’s bored looks
he’s scrubbing glass after glass; their emptiness reflect his excitement
a lone waitress makes her way to the few  sitting customers
she looks young, but time has added years because of Responsibility
one table, in the center, seats a lavish group of people
clad in the latest fashion of the day and smoking cigarettes
their cigarette embers fall to the ground like crushed dreams
Do I want to make  my way down to them?
my feet already know the answer, and do their best to levitate across the room noiselessly
I don’t want the occupants downstairs to hear – if there are any

“A glass of wine, please”, I say to the waitress
I smile as I return the menu, and she looks taken aback but smiles back halfheartedly
glancing around, my hands long for something to touch
I have a better view of the lavish group in the middle
and the way they pose their champagne classes elegantly in their upturned fingers
they look like they’re in the wrong place yet it’s the right time
their jewelry sparkles with the high level of their vivaciousness: they are
laughing, carefree, and oblivious to drudgery
readers peruse the morning paper for an article that might have been missed
someway behind the lavish group of people, I see a family enjoying dinner
the young boy is waving his arms around to mimic the story he is telling
the swerves, dives, claps, “OOO”s and “AAAAAGH”s are enjoyed by the mother and father
as they exchange loving glances
a clunky jingle alerts me to the returned presence of the waitress
“Are you sure there’s nothing else you need?” she asks softly, taking out her crinkled notepad
“No thank you, this will be all” I murmur gratefully, taking an unladylike swig
(what, a night) I’m about to ask for another glass but the waitress whispers:
“Madame, the gentleman at the bar would like to join you at your table.”
Curiosity begs me to swivel in my seat, and I do.

my eyes seek out the bar and the lone stranger
with his back to me, an untucked black and red plaid shirt covers the wide expanse of his shoulders
and dark jeans hang snugly below his waist
he appears to be muscular
a buzz cut frames his head, his profile like an eagle
and calls attention to the bar tender for a refill on his current drink
I stand up, knees shaking
why am I nervous? I’ve never seen this man before but his allure is magnetic
if he joined me at the table, I would have
defenses down, vulnerability at its peak, and no one to witness any harassment (if ensued)
I stumble to the bar and sit in the empty seat next to him
and order a margarita
the lone stranger turns towards me with a pleased smile
“The waitress did convey my message”, he murmurs while sipping his beer

his eyes’ cappuccino are highlighted with hazel flecks
I hide my surprise with an unladylike gulp of the margarita suddenly before me ,
pretending nonchalance but failing miserably
“Have we met before, sir?”
“No, but I believe you could be of great assistance to me”, he says
a pen appears,  and he pulls an unused napkin towards him
“Would you help me write a song? I need some inspiration.”
My semi-drunk stupor immediately tells him,
“talk about this lovely place
of no glamor, no ardor,”
“‘Lovely place’ will do”, the lone stranger murmurs, scribbling,
his body suddenly closer than what seems appropriate
I turn away, and my hair gets ruffled in the sudden breeze I can’t see what’s in front of me
But I hear someone singing “it’s a lovely place …  it’s a lovely place”,
as PATH reaches the stopover at Harrison, and I am jolted awake.


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