I have a dog.
And a child,
I say, thus
[This landlord, Gus Rink, is a no problem sorta guy.
(I’m using the telephone voice I borrowed from
the one that won her multiple offers for jobs
that on closer inspection had just been filled.)]
We park in the lot behind the Mid-Hudson Bank—
across from Doff’s Shoes, ballet and street—easy
access to an ill-conceived pedestrian mall off an
Arterial Highway that effectively shoots tourists
past the Queen City at record rates.
Rain descends like nuns’ tatting at St. Francis
where the patients on Spellman One make
ashtrays glazed blue and lacquer Corot
decals on to stained wooden boards;
one block up from the phallic statue—
supposedly Mary and Jesus—
the one we thought would be
more so if it weren’t white;
two blocks from the Italian Center where
Pam Malone took me to lunch (my first
and last there) to say, The world’s not
ready for this [my impending nuptials];
across the river from where Boss Rollins
stabbed migrant workers else they could
rot without a job in good old Ellenville,
New York. And wasn’t anybody’s
business if he did have the AIDS;
five blocks from Hamilton Street
where, a five-year-old me watched
a sallow-headed man lean Doppling
from his car window to shout, Bad
girl. Which left me wondering how
he knew; did everybody know?
So I could leave the child,
before which an unready world
trembles, in the car but I let him
decide. It’s a respect thing. And
the rain is coming down in tatters,
as we walk toward the newly gentrified
building with the green-and-white
awning—toward the man, hair
like white furry scruff
around his head.
Mr. Rink, I say (in my Callie Jenson voice and smilingly extend my hand).
To which poor Augustus, taking in the couple before him, me and
the fruit of the unready-world communion, says,
We spoke on the phone, I say, hoping to
allay his fears. (I’m no passing looky-loo.)
No! he says, both hands up— the right
as well as the umbrella hand—
as if to shield his eyes,
But, Mr. Rink, I call, to his now receding back,
smiling all the while, that’s illegal—
Decidedly, intones my rain-dappled son,
Mr. Rink is not himself today.