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Garth Pavell

Brighton Beach 


After years of pacing Manhattan I got divorced,

rented a room in a peeling pink house on Brighton

2nd Street where I could breathe the scent of history.


I’d wake before tourists, buy warm apple strudel,

coffee and brandy if there was snow on the sand

and watch the waves grope the crumbled ground.


For six months I had no one, no job, no furniture

of my own, just the sun’s deadly feminine touch;

if I drank too much we would doze in her sunset.


Some nights I’d walk the planks to Coney Island

with the novel Steppenwolf while the old gold

chained men sat gazing at their European moons.


When I’d return, the Uzbek man from the attic

would cut me a thick slice of freshly baked bread,

pour vodka and smile that life is good when simple.


He drank hot tea from the copper-rimmed double-life

of his shot glass and stood by the open window where

squirrels came to nibble through my peanut butter jars.


I sat under the lone kitchen light and sipped my night-

cap while he showered; the soaked bristles of a brush

scraping the relentless memories of an abandoned life.


He had just told me about his wife and daughter;

how he sent loveless currency back home and how

his distance provided a fatherly necessary evil. 


I drained my glass and went to my room to convince

myself that my connections weren’t all frayed and

in time I would miss feeling marooned in paradise.

I googled a childhood friend
and learned he died at 29.

He was a total party  
animal born in captivity.

I can still see him lighting up
a Grateful Dead show.

His head bobbing like a carousel 
with no sense of direction.  

He had some weird medical
condition that only allowed him

to see from one eye at a time 
and apparently he couldn’t tell 

his viewpoint changed, which is kind
of the way I feel now that I know    

his potential was an accomplishment. 



The Plant Store


in the far east of town

is where I found myself

shopping for my roots

that inhabited Earth’s

big night out way before

the lasso of civilization

bunched us into bouquets. 


I was greeted by a ficus tree

that stood guard by the door

with a look in its multitude

of eyes that said he’s the type

to resist arrest by not saying

a word other than the not for

sale sign meditating in his palm. 


Isadora was middle-aged

when she asked if she could

help find what I was

looking for in her little shop

so I said do you have

anything that’s not infected

with the evening news?


She led the way past flowers

in clay until we reached pothos

in plastic – this is the one not

influenced nor eager to know

when you will be home for it can

thrive in the indeterminate electric

moonlight of any man’s bedroom. 


I thanked her and nodded

to the tree that stood watch

and thought I felt his inner

child smile as I carried my

green little friend beyond

cold cars parked in the wild

sun that shouted to greet my leaf.

Garth Pavell's poems have appeared in Avatar Review, Drunk Monkeys, Main Street Rag, Mudfish, Poetry Super Highway, The Writing Disorder and elsewhere. His NYC-based band, Garth and the Unwieldys, play new American roots music. Garth is an ESL teacher and hasn’t owned a television since the 1900s.

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