We’d drink until the stars went out, then scrounge
an hour or two of sleep before our shifts
hopping the subway in from Brooklyn, Queens,
jacked up on NoDoz, Yoohoo, vitamins
eyelids sagging like chintz drapery.
Spindly young atom bombs, nourished by youth
and its spiteful, directionless energy –
at twenty-one, too asinine for words.
Gauloises hung from our lips with crisp disdain
for the forsworn trappings of adulthood
ignorant of our own complicity.
We believed in Henry Miller and Bukowski
made a pantheon of our fallen gods
venerated with vodka and cheap wine.
Our haunts were dive bars in Alphabet City
wood floors flecked with sawdust, jukeboxes
still stacked with 45s, walls lipstick red
or avocado green through the inchoate
haze of intellectual posturings.
We spoke of books we’d only half digested
slouching toward names off college syllabi:
Spinoza, Joyce, Calvino, Foster Wallace,
self-mockery a tribute to their jest.
We followed faded footsteps on the sidewalks
of those who’d come before us: poets, punks,
the legendary tramps of our failed dreams
emulating their sordid escapades.
Unbelievers, belief ran in our blood
intoxicated by the sweet ambrosia
and algebra of words upon the page.
Their ghosts hung everywhere — eyes glowering down
from dandruff ads, our bellies taut with hunger,
malt liquor alchemical in our veins.