“Hotdogs” and Other Poems by Anthony DeGregorio

Hotdogs

I smell steamed hotdogs on Hospital Avenue in Danbury
Where I’ve never in 10 years seen a truck or wagon
Selling the classic Americanized delicacy
Within miles of the Avenue’s Hospital where I’m headed
On my way to Cardiac Rehab,
And I suddenly wonder if this is how time ends?
The End Times merely a thick pungency, with the
Condensation of existence into a smothering of mustard,
Sauerkraut, and onions, the source of the apocalyptic vapor
Invisible apparently to the divinely mortal eye.
And if my attendance at an exercise session today is still really necessary?
Whom should I ask if I did go into the rehab suite?
Laura and Michele would probably just humor me till the Crisis Team arrived,
And Molly would give me that look
                                                        Rolling her eyes

                                                                                    Mouthing a drawn-out To-nee!
Liz—oblivious to the drama, gazing deep into the hovering past

Poised just behind the smudged glass of a computer screen,
Channeling the face of Debbie Harry 40 years ago
While I lip sync Rapture, clutching a careening treadmill for dear life.
Who would appreciate this less than healthy olfactory vision for what it is?
Kevin, with his Twilight Zone sensibility, is 3,000 miles away in Seattle
Attending perhaps at this very minute (given the time difference, of course)
To his bicycle before enjoying a multicolored bean salad
Blanketed artfully beneath the pale crisscrossing shreds
Of an aggressive cheese,
Its pervasiveness aerosoling the room
With the fierce humidity of its own sultry specter!

 

Library Foot Stench

The smell of his shoeless feet occupies a seat, and then an entire table divided into quarters.  It wants to get better acquainted and pushes against my shoulders and face, into my hair and skin.     It is a heavy pillow of stench, rich with filth feathers and mid-winter staleness.

The person attached to the swelling heels and soles sleeps chin to chest, a paperback spread wide at its center, the binding breaking across his lower face; a nasal mist darkens the rough beige pages.  His eyes roll and spasm behind anus-brown lids, opened in some some other place, to some other scene.  The belly slowly rises and falls beneath a bright mustard-yellow sweatshirt, his hands contentedly knotted between sternum and navel.

The feet continue to aerosolize the area above and surrounding the multi-person study table, which he and I occupy, in the fiction section, P-U.  The two ripe and blistered, tired old dogs expand and exhale.  The arches disappear beneath a cake of dried pus penetrating threadbare socks.  A gritty putridity textures the air.  The courthouse facade beyond the window behind him peels away, exposing a discolored insulation eroding.

 

Perfume

The thick fibrous smell of middle-aged women’s perfume
in the early cool of November, late afternoon.
An anachronistic intrusion, a clumsily covert
froth this calculus of sizzling autumn foam
haloing the grey bodies, retreating never sotto voce.
The hugger-mugger attempts at suspension
to bamboozle the wave that most cruelly dries them out.

There is a darkness now that’s hard to comprehend,
like a child’s first declaration to remain a child
in order to avoid what she’s heard so much about
and seen in the bent walk of someone
or remembers somewhere stealthily
in the image of a distracted and disheartened
uncle who died when she was barely aware
of the subtle terror of distance and the differences
between paralysis and sleep.
In this air, hard as pine against the unsuspecting face,
the smell of that perfume is smoke trapped.
In the darkened parking lot there is no one close by,
no one to trace the scent to save the card party ghosts and
secret sips from a Brandy Alexander-coated blender,
and raspy laughs from player-guests
who question masculinity, exhale
clouds of smoke and cling
to a notion of patriotism,
a boundary of “we”s and football terminology.

The smell disappears between asphalt and dust,
between steel and rubber.
The faded yellow lines of the spaces
as meaningful as any memory,
determining where we will stay
for this half-hour or so.
Like this November air
that determines how much
and to what degree of disrespectful vagueness
we will recall something from thirty years ago.
Walking again toward the shivering row of stores
standing like some silent giant train
moving slow enough to mimic eternity or
midnight (’s driving rain
                                            When half asleep in far-off beds
                                            we rock and rock to the whistles
                                            inhalations whistles and unseen
                                            force of steel and repetition.)

We walk again, uncomfortably self-conscious
of the click-clack of our heels on pavement,
afraid of whose steps we retrace
and of who is listening to the scrape
of warm soles edging recklessly past,
dim in the spark of spinning wheels held fast.

–About the Author—

Anthony DeGregorio’s writing has appeared or is scheduled to appear in various publications including BloomPhantom Drift LimitedNowhereWales Haiku Journal, and Polu Texni. He taught writing at Manhattanville College for twenty years, and in another life or two or three he also worked in various capacities for the Department of Social Services, much of that time while also teaching at night.