Exiting a Bar in Crown Heights, Brooklyn
It may have been the winter I chewed a final piece
of ice in a glass of Rittenhouse rye. Enough false
courage to follow freezing rain down an alley
without cats, without moonlight. It was no topo
map with red, steep lines. No character
I’d name shady. No evidence of a broken life
or bottle. No secreted lovers polishing their sex.
Not even a siren crisscrossed that dark.
All was quiet, as if the alley had been granted
a façade of grace. Only a waitress on smoke break
under a faltering light above a deli’s back door,
the beam flickering like an uncertain trumpet. I passed
her by. From wooden steps below the door, she exhaled
smoke, like a kiss blown from the railing of a ship.
By the railing above the river, a boatman,
damp in mudded coveralls, daydreams
over steam that drifts above the black
coffee in his fist. His eyes track crows
that cut the light above the water.
Inside Café de la Prensa, my own hands
clutch what they need: seltzer
for my wine-addled stomach,
a cut-rate umbrella with bent spokes,
the crease-worn map in my pocket.
Just beyond us, a woman laughs
at a kiosk, wraps bloodred nails
around a brandy. Her free hand
brushes back the dark feathers of hair,
a breeze floats across her face.
Blue-dark clouds arrive, deepening the sky.
The woman leaves the kiosk. My eyes follow,
as if seeing her at the end of a spyglass.
Her laughter rings the encircling breeze
that smells of wet paving stone.
Jeffrey Alfier’s recent books include Fugue for a Desert Mountain, Anthem for Pacific Avenue and The Red Stag at Carrbridge: Scotland Poems. Publication credits include Copper Nickel, Midwest Quarterly, Poetry Ireland Review, and The McNeese Review. He is founder and co-editor of Blue Horse Press and San Pedro River Review.