The Stoop

By Gianmarc Manzione
Published in Literal Latte 7.3 (2001): 8.

So what if the moon’s drawn a jail across the sky?
We’ve got cigarettes and rain, a wet stoop
smelling of ambergris and suede, the city
at our backs like a troubled adolescence.

We suck the sadness of the world through flames in our mouths,
we squeeze smoke from our eyes.
Dormitory lights intrude on the gossip of passersby.

Catey didn’t have the best childhood,
But who the fuck does
, she yells, utterly convinced.
Meg nods, twists her cigarette into a wet rail.
Yes, everyone gets it bad sometime, some worse
than others. Of this we are certain.

Meg, when I sit on this stoop alone, out of cigarettes,
I watch the clearing night uncover the panic inside the stars
and know the weather memory makes in the meantime:

The kitchen window where your father stood you
before black drapes to examine your aura. Your father,
crazy connoisseur of glass, who sang

birthday songs to your voice mail a month late,
calling from Mott Street or Mexico, you never knew.

This is America,
where you listen in on your life over the phone
and scrub your red lips from the shared mirror
on the last day of college,

and you blow smoke at rain, angry and unimpressed at 21,
and your youth assembles its few important failures
into a wisdom you forfeit to friends on the stoop.