#167 138th St.
rows and rows of beaded braids align on her smiling head, brows arched,
lips mauve, face faded from the hours
spent staring at the sun from her poster-perfect pose,
unmoved by scissors snapping and the methyl methacrolite fumes,
as the hand-written words on electric- colored cardboard plead:
“special! mon thru thur: mani and pedi $20.”
“se solicita peluquera con experiencia”
your hair? We have the vitamins.”
#338 Willis Ave
twice as tall as all the nuns,
its double-door austerity holds still as people pass
the glossy crimson planks and every rusty bolted hinge;
each doorknocker’s heavy as a ship.
unswept concrete steps keep the sidewalk far away while
“Where Everyone Is Someone”
sings the placard by the fence;
prayers on a microphone and grayish organ chords
trickle out beneath the doorway and through
stained glass window
#154 Alexander Ave
yes, we’re open as
event announcements come and go, their
shreds of thick black moustaches ; sombreros, broad and bright
on papery patches left after the tear, once the night had emptied the seats.
phone-card ads placed side by side by the credit cards accepted here—
a roll-call of nations and their hourly rates amid a gaggle of flags and smiles.
cervesas and soccer shout what the lotto tries to say
from their bold-print paper pulpits taped upon the plexiglass planes.
through a scratched-up clouded sheen,
la virgin morena silently stands,
by coffee pots and paper cups,
in a painted-plaster grace,
she gazes on the folded hands behind the window,
#264 Brooke Ave., apt C
vertical bars of black painted steel stand cold against
a clatter and hum
of soap operas, dishes, and plug-in fans;
false starts and onions frying,
music that sways and shakes like lime and liquor, hot and cool,
near the paprika peppered mango dripping slowly on a skewer,
and the coco, pina, cherry syrup seeping into ice;
locking out the sidewalk sales of shoeless dolls and screws;
sheltering the incantations, folded shirts, and juice,
guarding the living
room, the sleeping, the rising,
with a peep-hole peering out
at those who might want in.