An Englishman in New Jersey
In the twilight time, flattering
light inside the bar on the Jersey
Side made even me look good.
My first time across the river,
the taxi driver took me there;
he said it was the best
place, in Albanian.
I shouted, gently, ‘Barman
give me a beer.’ And it
splashed my sleeve as he said:
‘Do I look Jewish?’
The bar was Hank’s or Bud’s or
someone friendly’s name, a corner
spot for passing roughish trade
of either sex, and in the dark
it didn't matter for the lonely.
Hankorbud’s was on Heartattack and
Vine if you believed Mr Thomas Waits
whose voice was snarling angry
poems from the Wurlitzer box.
Another stranger in the strangest land
of alien food like lox and bagels.
‘This seat taken, hey?’ I almost
laughed as I was still, at five,
the lonely customer at the bar.
A nod and a grunt. She touched my
sleeve said ‘Hi, Morgana Fay’,
beamed American teeth that
made me wonder what the veneers hid.
The bartender – my mistake – put her
luridly festooned drink down,
she hadn’t ordered one, I thought.
‘What’s your sign, guy?’ she smiled again.
‘Sesquipidelian’ I said
shortly. She snorted; the sticky drink
came down her flaring nostrils.
Remarkably poised, she licked
the back of her hand after
wiping the drink from her
filtrum. ‘You know my name, what’s
yours?’ ‘It’s Miller time for me.’
She groaned ; ‘A funny guy,
a sense of humour, I like that in a man;
so, what’s your name, or is it thumbscrews?'
Superman was born in Jersey City
to two Jewish fathers so
I told her Mr Mxyzptlk.
She laughed and took a cool swallow
and licked her lips afterward. Then
she bumped her nylon knee against
my serge. ‘Oh sorry,’ she said but
she wasn’t and neither was I.
In the morning on the way to the lift,
I felt like an unwanted present:
as the doors closed and I asked for her
number, she whispered: ‘Kltpzyxm!’