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.