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Coney Island Lifeguard Blues
A poem written on the occasion of moving back to Queens after years away and once again riding the N train.
This poem originally appeared in Newtown Literary 13, Fall/Winter 2018.
Brooklyn-bound N train, Thursday evening, leaving Ditmars Boulevard, end of the line. He slouches through the doors from the next car like a gunslinger into a quiet saloon. Angry and blond under a straw fedora, jaunty beach towel around the shoulders of his Cuban shirt, belligerent hips thrust forward, hand jammed down the front of his oversized blue swim trunks like he’s just waiting to unload on the first cocksucker who looks at him funny. No one gives him the satisfaction. Where’s he coming from, this Lord of Flatbush, this Warrior coming out to play? There’s no beach at Ditmars, not unless you just swam over from Rikers. It’s ninety minutes to Coney Island and dusk will soon be falling. A hundred minutes, let’s say, since humiliation sent him fleeing the sand and cotton candy to the farthest corner of the earth: Astoria, Queens. But the gravity of betrayal on an otherwise perfect afternoon draws him back, back to an abandoned beach blanket for two in the shadow of a graffiti-tagged lifeguard tower. Flopped in a plastic seat, legs splayed, glaring and helpless, he burns to curse the heavens, but all the God was prayed out of him as a child. Or is he still a child, hand down his pants fondling his balls like worry beads, like a long-dormant rosary? Hail Mary full of grace. Spectacles, testicles, wallet, watch me, no, don’t watch me, what’re you lookin’ at anyway? Ninety minutes to Coney Island, end of the line, to take back what’s his— or, more likely, kick sand in the face of the moon. ∅