Almost 4 Years ago I lived for a time with my mother-in-law on 46th St in Sunnyside, Queens, NY. The block we lived on had a Discothèque, an after hours spot, and two Taco Trucks. After Jaleo and Club Noe Noe, the Discos, closed sending shards of young men and women out into the night there would be a drunken brouhaha in an orderly line waiting for tacos. To parody Hemingway it was a Movable Donnybrook, with high spirits, under the influence of spirits.
The yellow streetlight drops them in a pool:
An algae’d aquarium out the window.
I watch these tipsy drunks like Jacques Cousteau;
Filthy ether distorts human desire.
Three clubbers swaying in the pre-dawn air;
The unsteady kiss twists two together.
From right behind the woman the other,
Blinded, is too drunk to look away.
As I’d get up at 4 in the morning to grade papers I would be privy to the slurred inner lives of the same young people whose papers I was grading. There were passionate comparisons of the relative merits of various países latinoamericano. As someone would lose the argument on the eloquence trajectory they’s usually jump to the y-axis of VOLUME:
“¡Viva México,hijos de la chingada!”
(Tomates,Cebollas, y Chiles)
It is very easy to romanticize the hard working facts of these young people, so I did:
Underdressed for the cold of this rainy morning,
They look strange in their clubbing clothes
In early drizzle-gray.
Starched, oversized, faded, denim-gelled hair, laughing
Swaying about the women, long gone
Into the darkest night
Don’t move aside or apart for the bundled braving
On their frigid way to work
Just after dawn on Sunday.
Churchians will to the Assembly of praying,
‘Round the corner past these sidewalks,
Missing the hist’ry of now
Dedicated pre-dawn streets: partying and working
Devoted craft of good time: or work
Or both a long hard day
Working up to a life in America not needing
Sleep-eyed, rooster-time tasks;
Sparking and posing hold no sway
These are the sons of the workers power-walking,
Hunched, backpacked, clutching shopping bags,
Towards a corner of their own
Clucking and cooing rare birds crowding sidewalk crowing
An unsteady conclave relaxed
Don’t see the salt of the earth pass
Ballasted by tools they march to the train, trickling
Past unsteady upright peacocks:
Stagger men their boys’ll be.
These are the same men, on different days of the week, drinking
On different corners, in different rags
The revolving door of the poor
I was both once, dog, drunk and industrious, working
Before I drank the collegiate Cool-Aid™
That was a long-long time ago