A CITY LIKE ALMOST ANY OTHER

somewhere within three blocks
of here a limo is disgorging
or swallowing up passengers

a child is dreaming of taking
lessons on a piano or violin
of Carnegie or Alice Tully Halls

a woman is remembering
what the touch of his fingers
felt on her cheek, tracing

her jaw, not shattering it,
a tagger prepares for battle
carefully loading his makeshift

holster after clearing
each nozzle, plotting which walls
will be an evening’s canvas

but across from here there is
the same red brick building
five store fronts, each with

barred doors drawn tight
staring, with no hope of parole
a green grocer, two bananas

rotting on the stoop,
a tailor’s naked mannequin
head turned backwards in shame

a locksmith whose lock
dwarfs the others though
there is nothing within to hide

and two vacant hollow spaces
like eyes of the dead
rheumy, semi-opaque voids

and eight neat rows
of six sooty windows each
behind which others hide

from the anger and fury
they would unleash on the city
if they could overcome their fear.

Published in The Raven’s Perch (August 3, 2020)
https://theravensperch.com/a-city-like-almost-any-other-by-louis-faber/

ANSWER SWIFTLY

The question you will be called upon
to answer requires careful thought,
but you will be forced to respond.

Would you rather live the rest
of your life in Lilliput or Brobdingnab?

It may seem rather silly, for neither
is likely to occur, but that is not the point
and you cannot avoid responding.

Of course you will have to read
Swift, but you ought to do that anyway
and there, if you pay attention, you

see your own world and your
relationship with it, and you will see
others who look vaguely familiar.

So there you have your midterm exam
denizen of Lilliput or Brobdingnab,
and no, you cannot answer with

“because I’d be a giant among midgets,”
or “because I’d stand out as a midget
in a world where all around me are giants”

because no matter how you choose
you’ll be black in a white world, gay
in a straight one, or a woman in our world.

THE CLUB

It’s jazz, it’s a club,
but there what once was
is no more, there are
no ashtrays on the table,
overflowing early into
the second set, no cloud
of cigarette smoke descending
from the too dark ceiling.
There is no recognizable odor
of a freshly lit Gaulloise,
in the trembling fingers of
a young man trying to look cool,
trying not to cough on each
inhalation, in the calm fingers
of a young woman who
you know speaks the fluent
French of her homeland.
It is none of those things
but it is jazz, it is a club
and in this city, now, it must suffice.

TEMPUS FUGIT

She parked her cart across the face
of the bin, she fills the only gap.
She has a look of determination
that says “give me space
if you know what’s good for you.”
She examines each banana
with the care of it gemologist
and you imagine that she wears a loop.
She pulls bunches apart, finally picking one,
then five minutes later the line
behind her in awe and frustration, another one.
There is almost a third, until
as she places it in her cart
she sees something beyond our comprehension,
and back it goes amid the host of rejectees.
I glanced at my watch, realize
how long I have been on this few item shop
and grab three of her misbegotten, then
seeing her head for the grapes,
make my own mad dash to get there first,
so I might get home for dinner.

OVA

She says you should not put
all of your eggs in one basket.
I remind her that I’m not
terribly fond of eggs, and only
rarely have more than one, and
in any event, I keep them in
the refrigerator to avoid spoilage.
She says, so why is it we
have no TV, no phone, no Internet,
tell me that, wiseguy.
I steer away from eggs and baskets
and simply respond, because
we have yet again been stranded
on that barren, fruitless island
known to all, hated by them, as Comcast.
We both shrug our shoulders
in resignation to our fate.

WEAVING

She plucks the odd loose thread
puts it on the table and finds another
and a bit of what could be twine.
She weaves them together
loosely, with seeming abandon
until they are an ill formed braid
barely hanging together, a jumble
of color and fabric,
a true hodge-podge.
But when she says
to all of us gathered,
“look at the amazing tapestry
I have woven,
we all nod approvingly
and for a moment, when
we look away, we see
the intricate story she
sees so clearly and believes
she has so carefully told.

OBSCURITY

a winter night
clouds digest the moon
cars drive
turning lights out
disappearing
neon signs
stare
beckoning
vacancy
open space
super condensed matter
she moans
I love you
to starched sheets
shrouds
wrap her loins
a cat
scampers
into a bush
dragging
the sun
melting
the highway
electrons
run crashing
into nothing
quantum
leaps


First appeared in Erothanatos, Vol. 3, No. 3, July 2019 at Pg. 43

INTO THE TIDE

The woman at the next table
stares at her fork
with eyes which appear
bottomless pools of sorrow.
She picks at the noodles,
raises and lowers
the glass of wine
without sipping.
She is lost within herself
and even the waiter
approaches with trepidation
for fear of falling in
and drowning
in her sadness.
In her eyes
are pools of cabernet
spilled from glasses
cast aside
by retreating lovers,
the blood of a mother
who died in her birth,
tears of a father
hopelessly alone.
You see him returning
to the table
and a smile of faint hope
crosses her lips,
lingers a moment
and is drawn
into her eyes.
She watches him
finish his wine
and with a nod
of his head, hers,
and she sinks back
deep within herself.


First appeared in Erothanatos,  Vol. 3, No. 3, July 2019 at Pg. 41

SORT OF

She is sifting through photo albums
deciding which pictures to keep, which
to discard, questioning why she kept some
in the first place, blurred, ill composed.
She sets very high standards now
wondering why some were taken, the sun
she says, all wrong here, the background
in that one just swallows the subjects.
I left my photos behind when I moved out,
so many of the woman I was leaving after
finally admitting to myself that she said
she had left me emotionally two years earlier.
Now I sit here and sift through memories,
deciding which to keep, which I wish
I could discard, questioning why I remember
certain things in the first place.
She will have far fewer albums
with only the best pictures when she’s done,
I will carry a mind full of memories
that absolutely refuse to be discarded.

RESEARCH

She is a small woman
dressed in white, save for black
platform slingback pumps
and cherry red eyeglass frames.
She hunches forward in her seat
seeming as though she might collapse,
pouring over tables and graphs –
biochemical research papers.
You measure the depth of her attention
by the frequency with which she  pulls
single strands of hair from her banded ponytail,
strokes them gently, then, as if noticing they
have gone astray, tries to tuck them back in.
She pauses this ritual only to annotate
the paper’s margins in mechanical pencil
in a small, cramped hand, barely legible.
You know she has reached the paper’s conclusion
when she strokes that soft space
between those in upper lip
as though a teenage boy hoping
one day soon to grow a mustache.