DEAR WHOEVER IS SENDING PICTURES TO MY PHONE
My phone is not fancy enough to receive photos.
You are probably sending me photos of something
funny and sweet or something that reminds you of me,
but in reality, all you are really sending me is a reminder
that I am too poor to afford a fancy phone. My phone
won’t even tell me who is sending theses photos.
It only tells me a photo has been sent and guess what?
I’m too poor to see it, so ha-ha. In the New Yorker cartoon
of this poem, I would be portrayed by an old Labrador.
I would be so out of it that I would be complaining
to a lumpy ottoman, and thinking it was another dog.
THE BARTENDER’S WIFE
Night has always been this thing
on the other side of the window,
this bad novel, this dark brute
shaking the stars into clarity.
I liked dusk all right, the sun
getting down on one knee
like a gentleman to kiss my cheeks
goodbye, but the rest of it
I could always live without,
preferring coffee-scented morning
in all its dowdy soberness,
the simple hopeful stretch of it.
Last winter, a woman’s heart spat
blood all over the sidewalk, a gun's
wet answer to her pointed question:
What are you going to do, kill me?
and my boyfriend was cleaning up
spilled beer and torn napkins
five city blocks away, his cell phone
thudding dully in his coat pocket.
I’m not an idiot. It’s New York City
and what doesn’t seem dangerous?
The book bag doubles as a bomb;
the moody teen as trigger finger.
Hell, even the skyline can look as sharp
and anonymous as knives. Your dumb
consistent breath proof only that luck
had negotiated your way out of being
at the wrong place at the wrong time
again. But it’s New York City and there
are times and places when even luck
would throw its silvers fingers in the air.
Still, each morning, I find him sleeping
next to me like the beautiful answer
to a stupid question: he's there.
He’s there like he's always there,
and I don’t know who to thank for it all,
whose generous hands are placed
protective on his shoulders, guiding him
back to me again and again.
Who lets the bright light of my worry,
my heart’s terrible export, shine on
as a beacon, a smoldering lighthouse
in this city’s unforgiving ocean of night.
Editor's Note: These poems appeared in a previous issue.
Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz is the author of several poetry collections, including How to Love the Empty Air (Write Bloody Publishing, 2018).