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Poetry by Erica Miriam Fabri


The Baxter Street Blues
High Definition Microphone Life
On the 95th Night of the Year
Half Fish-Half Man
The First Morning on Earth



The Baxter Street Blues

I'm in the basement of a restaurant
on Baxter Street, waiting to use the restroom,
when the girl who was using it before me

finally emerges—the door makes a squeegee sound,
and she's got these shiny eyes, like new marbles,
that meet mine for more than a second—

and she is beautiful, Indian, with lips
like two tiny pink worms, brown seashell skin—
and I think she's such a pretty thing that maybe

I won't worry about putting toilet paper
on the toilet seat before I sit down this time,
since, after all, it was her skin that touched

that raw porcelain last—and she looks too pretty
to be a carrier of any kind of dangerous bacteria—
and besides, maybe it would feel good to let my

bare ass touch something that her skin might
have touched. Strange, that I should even have
these thoughts. This is what loneliness will do to you:

make you long for some kind of junction or tickle
from anything you see that seems to be harmless,
or gentle or any sort of envoy of beauty.

But I'm pretty sure she’s not my type, because
I cried myself to sleep again last night, over some
fool man who is breaking my heart. And I will

probably cry myself to sleep again tonight. I'll sob
and heave into the pillow as if it were some kind
of square mystical jellyfish that produces oxygen

for girls with a sharp heart. Then eventually
I will grow tired and drift into a nightmare about
the kitchen of an apartment I used to live in

where the blue flame of the gas stove was brighter
than a streetlight and I could hear a man cutting
vegetables and whispering a prayer and I somehow

knew for certain that he was going to hurt me.
When I wake up I won’t remember the dream.
But I will wonder why I feel so sad.

I’ll be late to work and have to take a taxi.
The driver will have soft eyes and a French accent.
When he asks me if I like the song that the radio

is playing, I’ll tell him, “I don’t know.” He’ll wait
for me to say more, but I won’t. We’ll get stuck
in traffic—car horns and sirens will taunt us

like mean children, but the car won’t move an inch.
We’ll stay very quiet, look at one another in the rearview
mirror, and we’ll both know that all we may ever

know about the other is the eyes and eyebrows
and the slight wrinkles in the forehead. I will never
see his lips and he will never see mine. “You know,”

he will suddenly say, “Us men, we are trying to be good.
And in many ways we are succeeding. But in some ways,
the Devil is winning, and men are losing.” Raindrops,

heavy as nickels, will beat down onto the roof of the cab,
it’ll feel like rain that was sent by the Devil himself.
I’ll feel like crying, but I won’t. When he asks me

if I believe in angels, I’ll tell him, “I don’t know.”
When he asks me if I’m married, I’ll tell him, “I don’t know.”
When he asks me if I’d like a cigarette, I’ll tell him, “I don’t know.”

When he asks me if I’d like to get out of this car and stand
in the rain with him, I’ll tell him, “Yes.” When he asks me
if I’ve ever seen a lightening bolt hit the ground,

I’ll tell him, “No. But I want to. I want to, today.”

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High Definition Microphone Life

If you ever have the chance to sing or speak
or even just breathe into a high definition
microphone, you’ll find out what I found out:
that even the things in life we thought
were soundless, in fact, have a voice.
When the forefinger and the thumb brush
against one another, or the tongue gently
stirs in the mouth. When a lock of hair falls
from your ear to your chin. These things
that you thought were as quiet and soft
as cheese actually make clicks and shhhs
and wooshes that we never listen to.
How reckless I’ve been for the almost
nine thousand hours of every year
I’ve been alive to go about my days
ignoring all these luscious noises.
Especially when I know that at any
moment an earthquake could come
and shake or swallow my whole beautiful
life. Then, I think about the people I love,
how all this time I thought I was paying
attention to them just because I answer
when they speak to me, or because
I turn to check on them when they sneeze
or stub their toe—but really, now I see,
how I have wasted my time on this planet
because I never really knew the sound of their
upper lip laying itself onto their lower lip,
never memorized the rub of their neck
against their t-shirt. Maybe their eyelashes
are making a music I can hum to myself
as a way to remember them when they
leave me. Perhaps there is a whisper
when they uncross their legs or a low
rumble when they swallow that would
break me apart in ten places—move me
enough to write a poem about their rattle.
And now that I know this, will the anxiety
of wanting to catch up on all that I’ve missed
madden me? Make me lose sleep? Maybe
that would be best, because I could lay awake
and spend the night listening to the blessings
in the walls, the blessings in the blankets,
maybe I will be able to hear my own body
resounding—my ribs tossing and turning,
organs I don’t even know I have barking
or trumpeting—maybe I will hear a roach
sliding its skinny leg along its lover’s
backside and then I will know the sound
of a kind of love-making I never even
realized was happening each night
only inches away from my reverberating
breath.

 

 

 


 

 

On the 95th Night of the Year

I dreamt that you grew two wings just under
your shoulder blades, while you were sleeping.
They were the size of your hands, not big enough
for you to use for flying, but big enough that I was
sure we’d need to figure out a way to hide them
from the outside world. I could stitch you a thick
vest, I thought, or buy you a backpack. I knew
they were coming, these wings, four days before
they broke through. When I rubbed your back
before bed, they felt like two dumplings under
your skin. I loved the wings just like I loved
the rest of you. Maybe even more so. They were
shaped like orchids, had that kind of grace.
And the moment I found my hand tangled
between them, I was overcome with a feeling
that things were going to change for the better.
This was what I’d been waiting for: not the wings,
but the change. I plucked the longest feather
and used it like a paintbrush as you snored,
celebrating our new life by tracing the first
letter of all my favorite words down your spine
and whispering them into your mouth as I did it:
N for Nefertiti, T for Tangerine, B for Belly.

 

 

 


 

 

Half Fish-Half Man

At the entrance to a park in Brooklyn
there is a dried up fountain. The statue
in the center is a black-green color.
When I approach it for the first time
what I think I see, where the water
should be, are three Mer-Men helplessly
reaching upward toward two women—
human women—who stand above them.
The men are large and built of stacks
of muscles from the waist up, but because
they are half-fish, they cannot stand,
they lay along the cement on their scaley
tails and it makes them look small.
Their arms are straining for a touch—
as if they are desperate for one taste
of dry hair, for one grasp of a leg or foot.
One Mer-Man’s hand is the size of a tree
branch. It could crush a woman’s throat
with a quick squeeze. But it won’t do that,
because it can never get there, all it can do
is wave itself like a paddle to move his alien
body through the dark water. He can’t even
reach her toes. She is safe this time.
I tilt my head to the left, then right, staring
at one statue-woman’s face, trying to figure
what she is thinking. Does she want to point
and laugh and say something like: “Ha Ha.
Swim away. You can’t do anything in my world.
I am so much better than you.” I step closer
to examine the folds in her cheeks, the curve
in her eye, and I can tell that isn’t what
she wants to do. She wants to throw down
a thick rope and say: “Come on up here.
I’ll take care of you. I’ll think you’re
beautiful, no matter what.”

 

 

 


 

 

The First Morning on Earth

The first place on earth to see morning is a sub-
Antarctic slice of earth called: Young Island.
I imagine, it would be a great burden to be
a resident of this place, because you would have to
take-on the day before anyone else in the world:
you’d have to make the decisions we all need to make
every day of our lives before anyone else needs
to make them; like who to kiss, which boots
to wear, how many pinches of salt to let go of;
you’d have to try not to make the same mistakes
you made yesterday, to drink enough water, to not
burn the eggs this time, to sing the right words
of the right song on the radio; while almost every other
human being alive is sound asleep in their bed, still
holding-on to their lover, still with bad breath
and still rubbing their cheek into the drool
on their pillow. Everyone else is dreaming of things
they will or won’t remember when they wake up:
like flying through Brooklyn, or riding the train topless,
or of a terrible tree that collapses onto their front door.
On Young Island there is no more waiting for tomorrow,
tomorrow is today, and today is here and you’ve got
no choice but to get through it the best you can.
Meanwhile, the most spoiled brats on the planet
are those who live in Alaska, especially the sons-of-bitches
that live on Attu Island, the last place on our globe
to see the sun rise. They get to put-off daytime
the longest: by the time they rub their eyes open
they can turn-on the news and get a warning
of the weather, find out who has been victim
to gunshots, they can watch all the round and square
faces of the people who have already trudged through
today—learn from them—and try their best to do better.
You and I are in the middle of these two places,
on your couch, arguing again. And we’re both too stubborn
to just say: I am wrong and I am sorry and I love you from
one end of the earth to the other—I love you from
the darkest ocean to the brightest. And I wish
I could stop crying and suggest that we get on a direct flight
to Alaska—because if we get there fast enough
we can start the day over. Do everything differently this time.
And I wish we were rich enough to do this—but since we’re not,
I wish I was not so proud, and that I could just tell you
that all the money in the world means nothing to me—
that I would trade every last copper penny for the will
to be good enough to live on Young Island, to be able to be
the first member of the human race to get up and face
the day and need no practice, no alarm-clock snooze, no lesson
from the rest of the family of the planet, no extra journey
to the end of the earth to do things right by you.
And right by me. And right by the world.

 

 

 

 
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