Riding with Death and an Accordion

(Ekphrastic homage to Jean-Michel Basquiat, with borrowed words)


do these accordion players keep playing
in the middle of the street
to incoming traffic?

Bellows spread open,
taped, dissected, stitched—
parting a red sea of love notes
over and over, purses bloated with life,
coins spilling from their pockets
in a currency that wasn’t current yet,
change that didn’t register
until the impact finally hit.

I’m broken open by this world
that steals the soft-cheeked ones
with the curious eyes,
their lungs exploding with moonlight.
I’m loading the dishwasher today,
but a part of me is still 20,
kissed against a dirty loft wall
too hard by that friend of a friend
who’s tweaking; and I’m running away from home,
sleeping in St. Patrick’s cathedral
because I’m awake now and need to stay
with what’s real, because life is a sharpened blade
I can’t stop running my finger along, searching
through the trash for a song I forgot, for the lost ones
with long shadows and radium-streaked lips;
I’m walking all the way across Queens in a day
just to follow the 7 train, and the whistle blows again
and then I’m watching someone die
and wake up and die over and over and I’m trying to understand
all of it and I’m reading the map upside down and backwards, and it’s all
just scribbles and erasure, topography lines,
a pin drops like a pungent odor
ominous grimaces bobbing in the tide,
sigils and scrawled charcoal warnings
I’m trying to scry

Lay in the white lines in the street; cry
for the illegally tender,
the ones who lost the fight.
Somewhere on the other side
they’re still playing, running through fields of flowers
that yield to their open hands.
Pollen on their fingertips, they draw faces on the sun; sky
stretching its lush blue canvas over their ribcages,
keeping their plush voices safe.
You think? 

Lay down and cry tonight
because the trucks will always come,
their Gideon’s horns blaring
as they barrel in on their horse legs.
The bleak teeth of the world will always swallow us whole,
chew us into these fractions of anatomy
until the current pulls us under.
Cover your ears and hum when you hear it coming.
Hold onto these lines that connect us.

I don’t know why anymore.
Play for change; scavenge hope.
Pay for soup, build a fort—
set that on fire.

Grip the velvet rope.
Chase chalk outlines of angels.
Follow their gold dust ghosts.

© Psyche Marks 2020

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