A Night in Harlem

by Lana Bella


Darkness dives upon Harlem,
tearing off the moon from the knife-edged snow.
Splinters of gold bleed the ground,
and smear the lidded heads of thick human throngs.
Set bay windows stack in symmetry
under the shop awnings.
Chalky flakes blur the cut-out frames,
glowing of scavenged light.

Tonight, the moon hitches on the back of sleep,
snagging flying notes ping-pong over
from the nearby Paris Blues bar,
where a drove of patrons loiter on pulverized sidewalks.
A ghost of mist snakes round their scuffed boots,
as yellow cabs scurry upon potholed streets,
spewing an ocean of acid rain.

A short-skirted dame tumbles out of a dark limousine
with spinning wheels by the loading dock,
a textile cloud of laurel green, champagne pink and licorice black,
struts up the steps,
trailing perfume and sable fur.
Patting her puffed-up hair,
tossing a hello at the bouncer there,
she digs through her long-strap purse
for a pack of Lucky Strikes.

Cold air slaps wild and hard,
she lurches to cordon off the blast
with her cupped fingers over the cigarette,
and the others flick fast on the flint wheel
it sputters, then jolts to life
in curious states, part wind, part snow, part pitfall

The slim butt passes from stained lips
into deep smoky drags,
entering, exiting,
then settling like a goodbye kiss.
She draws in the burned foliage of the evening,
tasting stale breath and New York’s hollow moon.


Copyright © 2015 by Lana Bella

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