My Regret

Albany at Night

Photo by Amarshall224

Here’s my regret.
I was born in its embrace and
more than likely will be buried in it, too.
My regret’s as old as or older
than yours, I’ll bet, and once claimed
more than a hundred thousand souls.
Many walked away from her, though.
They saw futures somewhere out there,
with regrets bigger and more exciting
than this laid ready for the taking.
It’s funny about the hold
of my regret, though, here
at the crossroads of history,
where men and laws have been made,
defended and broken. She’ll never
let me go, this Albany,
my town, my regret.

I’m catching up on some missed days of Poem-A-Day April and NaPoWriMo 2014. In this lunchtime drabble I combined prompts from P-A-D and NaPo, one calling for a city poem and the other calling for me to replace a tangible noun (in this case “town,”) with an intangible one (“regret”). Did a double-switch, like a National League manager, there at the end. I hope I did them justice.

Strength in Numbers

A Five Sentence Fiction

(Warning: This story contains strong language.)

Stooped with pain, the old man strained to lift his two plastic grocery bags upon the bus stop bench next to a drowsy young man whose heavily muscled arms bore the illustrated truth and imaginings of a life spent in Darwinian street survival.

“Say, old dude, gimme dollar, a’ight?” the young man said in a tone and posture that carried more threatening certainty than a questioning request.

“I have no dollars to give you, young man, but I can give you some of my food, an apple or bagel perhaps, because that’s how I was taught and because you remind me of someone who would always pet my dog Misty when we walked through the old neighborhood,” the old man thinly smiled and said in a hoarse whisper.

Another young man, not so big as the first, but with a sure look of malevolent resolve in his eyes, entered the bus stop and laughed when he jostled the old man, spilling his hat and groceries on the ground.

“Hey, motherfucker,” Randall Jenkins, late of lower Livingston Avenue in Arbor Hill, stood and said with the cool confidence of the power of memory, “you’d best pick that shit up for my man Mr. Malowicz and get the fuck outta here before we kick your narrow, stringy ass way the fuck over to Madison Avenue.”

A lunch-break Five Sentence Fiction based upon Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word STRENGTH. I put a bunch of what I thought were instances of that word in this piece. Can you find them?

Broken Spell

Morning Smokestack

Morning Smokestack (Photo credit: Mr. Ducke)

Looking like a broken spell
emanating from the long brick finger
of the heating plant’s stack,
a rosy steam plume glowed and
scattered with the wind
into a memory of palest pink.
Even busted so, it entranced me enough
to stare for a few seconds,
though continued magic became diluted
by the sun’s climb to beatify
with halos the Albany rooftops.

It’s only a winter wizard can cast
these natural phantasms,
the sun situated just so
and the brutal January cold
setting deep the peach gelatine bed
of late dawn’s horizon.
With a gentle cough the silver-hair
makes his climb to gray-on-grayer
shadow world of warm cubicles
whose light conjures as much
benevolent sorcery as a paper cut.

Champagne Tommy

Statue of former-Mayor Thomas Whalen III and h...

Statue of former-Mayor Thomas Whalen III and his dog Finn McCool in Tricentennial Park, Albany, NY, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here in Albany’s Tricentennial Park,
he’s sitting on the bench to my right,
old Mayor Champagne Tommy, bronzer than
any old toper could ever get in a gin mill.
The alloyed but not allied Dutchman and Mohawk
stand between us–the former overdressed,
and the latter, barely dressed at all.
But Tommy’s rigged for action,
collar buttoned and tie snugged up nicely.
The former judge’s jacket’s open,
exposing the slightly straining belt and buckle
tucking back years spent
sitting at the Bar and in a few.
Tommy’s got a big head,
too big for his hairline, as I like to say.
But Tommy’s comb-over withstands winds
and rains. Hell, even blizzards won’t budge it.
Yeah, he’s a statue.

“Assiduity,” blares the Dutchman, beckoning
with two fingers and his jaunty Van Dyke,
like some stuffy maître d’ in Utrecht or
maybe a ruffly pimp in Amsterdam.
The Indian remains silent, probably
not wishing to draw attention to himself,
as if standing near-naked next to
that Dutch dandy wasn’t baring witness already.
But Champagne Tommy, grinning that perpetual
grin, pays his neighbors no mind. He’s squinting
unblinking amity out onto Broadway, watching
each day’s passing parade and sharing his
park with the lunchtime crowd and their
cell phones, sandwiches and lattes.

Tommy rests on his bench, his left arm
draped across it’s back, as if waiting
for some downtown companion
to curl into his metal-firm embrace.
If she doesn’t show, Tommy will be okay.
He still has his burly blond pal, Finn McCool,
by his side. Finn sits on the ground
beneath his master’s right hand,
silent, strong, smiling his dog smile,
giving new meaning to the command, “Stay.”
The tulips are in bloom here today, their big
annual celebration kicking off tomorrow.
Tommy won’t be attending this year,
though his spirit presides over every party
this town throws. C’mon, why do you think
he’s called Champagne Tommy?

“Slainth Mhath,” Tommy. Even now,
you’re the life of the party.

Seal of the City of Albany, NY monument in Tri...

Seal of the City of Albany, NY monument in Tricentennial Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I used to sit with old Tommy at lunchtime when I worked in downtown Albany. I may have been the only non-tourist long-term sitter to hang with His Honor on that broiling or freezing bronze bench.