Rivke-The Last Proletariat
 
 

Ode to Hypatia-Adieu to Myths


 


























 
 

Rivke-The Last Proletariat


I’d be willing to wager according to the strictest sense she wouldn’t brand
me voyeur
during the years we lived on Houston Street sharing an alley way strewn with
trash
beer cans, hypodermic needles and crumpled pall-mall packs:
discounted round trip tickets, a tax break for the poor
that ragged lot exercising their rights to follow orders and arrows pointing
down to the welfare depths of escapism where they are laid to waste side by
side
basking on self-styled shores of Southern France, decrepit and reviled
having scrounged on all fours for their slice of the pie Riviera
they overlook petrol stained sand
littered with flaccid condoms and broken glass
struggling to reinvent themselves and their perceptions of paradise
they emerge, ashamed, revolted and do it again, ad infinitum

our commonality that and parallel clotheslines of woven flax
geraniums, ivy and tomato plants thriving despite the soot
in weathered window boxes juxtaposed, yours and mine
I could not help myself- you were thirty, I was ten
and thought you Rahab, prone to redeem the Lower East Side
you who thrived on two slices of artichoke topped Sicilian from Ray’s
Pizzeria
cheesecake and triple thick vanilla malts: eggs, sugar, cream and canned
produce
a working girl’s fare, to go, every night
when I once asked you how could you eat so much
you took three steps back
and etching out the idea with hands delicate as blown glass
gesticulate
34-24-38
Curves like this don’t grow on trees, you solemnly attest

but like many a girl my age wished your Joshua would come for you
astride the back of a heaving Andalusian mare, bound, with hooves unshod
for a decadent gypsy tent of autumnal velvet patchwork staked out in the
Sinai
and laid out by his deferential hand was a resplendent feast of wine
roast lamb and figs vertically cleft
exposing their clitoris hued sweetness
sustenance befitting your station
The Peregrine Queen of the Wandering Race
please forgive the clandestine title I burdened you with in those days
and the daydream that you needed either strapping Semitic prince or
deliverance
you who came to execute your purpose and fulfill you-know-who’s dream
giving rise to the first ever classless generation
your philosophy so unadulterated-your calling, triple X

when you’d prophesy during climax, “I am the holiest of holies!”
I can’t remember one who didn’t come back after he heard that
you convinced them and me, you were the fount of ablution
such a collection of men, the most charming, Othello
his Afro, a halo of sloe black
which you adorned with emerald and purple
ribbons of satin, always 99 of them never more or less
the tips hovering above sweat spiced shoulders, a salt lick for caged birds
his fingers, deft commissars as they played first you,
then his unplugged custom Stratocaster
in baby blue sidewalk chalk scribbles every time upon departure
and watching while he hunched over were those pretty hula girl ribbons
sentient extensions of his sublime conscience
belly buttons undulating in unanimous agreement while he wrote:
Holy Mary, Mother of god, Have Mercy On Us, Sinners So Contrite and
Repentant
and Bless Us With Josephine Baker for President
four times a week for two and a half years until the day Josephine died
then in torment gouged his face with fingernails, freshly painted in orgasm
flung his unsuspecting chalk down the gutter
and never called on you or her name again

also worthy of mention was your panty collection
seasonal pricey fruit strung up to dry: blueberries, cherries and apricots
I thought they only came in white
bleached as the skin of the one who looked like Trotsky
and contrasted sharply with his costume from Juarez, a garish striped serape
twenty colors the claws of a mangy feral cat having at my eyes
the coarse wool belted by a noose around his waist and hangs just below his
knees
exposing slivers of calves betwixt and between
his poncho and crocodile-skin cowboy boots in avocado green
proving what I long since suspected, nothing underneath
he who never gets to be on top and always kept his spectacles on
committing to his memory you kneeling supernatant
a lily on a pond
and shackled by Houdini’s cuffs, which Rivke won at an auction
he allows himself to drown, then breaks the surface gasping
choking on potentiality
a fragmented man reborn, a shard of self reclaimed
it’s the guileless boy, true-blue, who unearths the pirate’s treasure
a flawless sapphire, star-bright, a cosmic abracadabra, he holds his breath
racing back to his swank apartment in Central Park West
where his wife is stoned and snoring, adrift on the puce shag carpet
valium and vodka-straight up, eradicating the ennui of her bourgeoisie life
and the Leviathan guilt she feels for having a legless baby while on
thalidomide
he locks himself in his panel walled office with an antiquated Underwood
hopelessly bent on liberating them all: his wife, their son and every brutal
caste system
by writing a manifesto of such proportions that Marx’s epiphany would be
sung
by Bolsheviks and Mensheviks alike- their throats opening tunnel wide
the chorus shattering the windows of factories and frozen mindsets
everywhere and all at once

and why should I feel pangs of miserable jealousy
when he with a swagger finer than Castro’s in fatigues and kohl eyeliner
tends to Rivke’s hair with an ivory-handled, boar-bristled brush
copy-catting a maestro’s light-handed stroke warming up his harp
and I think
why that dirty dilettante, he isn’t even Irish!
and if that isn’t bad enough he plaits it, quick and neat
makes a cable fat as a Burmese python gorged on deserving church mice
then with hocus-pocus flair, undoes the links
a second rate magician brandishing a taped up wand
in a small-time three ring circus

that your hair should be so unremittingly vermilion
shot through with fulgurant bursts of molten honey
down to the hollow of your back the rivulets spiraling effortlessly
sunsets in the Negev in postcard format
sent to me from Zev sequestered at a private school called Sde- Boker
by comparison, seem tepid, even though he writes:
“Lilith, but you should see this! Mt. Ramon in the distance
is a Neanderthal crude tool fashioned just to pierce the sky
and when the sun sinks, the sky bleeds from the effort, chaste offerings,
every night
inimitable, truly, it is; I would contest anyone who said otherwise.”

but if he got an eyeful of Rivke’s locks there’d be no contest
especially after Fidel is through brushing, the act stretched to
excruciating limits
until I want to howl, “ENOUGH!”
and leap across the alley sinking teeth into his wrist
but Rivke seems to know this and ushers him toward the fire escape
the only way out for him
he descends the rungs, a lanky thighed cavalier two at a time
high-steps up to the curb, hails a checkered taxi, commands the driver,
“Hurry, I’ve got a plane to catch at JFK- the last one to Havana!”
the driver circles the block five times
all the while thinking to himself in Farsi, "What a horse’s ass!"
comes to a lurching halt and palms Fidel ignominiously out the door
smack across the street from where Rivke holds court
the cabbies are wise to him by now, so by rote they play their part
and there Fidel slouches on a rickety chair too small for even his ego
at a sidewalk café where all they serve is Cuban coffee
which he sips while he drafts plans on a paper napkin
a cartoon icon acting out a scene:
he’ll hire Wile E. Coyote -just the rascally underdog for the job
never one to say no at the chance to use another round of dum-dum bullets
or nitroglycerin, which, according to Acme Corp. is the best explosive on
the market
Fidel craftily positions X’s here and there on the two-dimensional earth
most of the marks are limited to two or three sandblasted continents
yet another one of his harebrained plots for blowing up all the oil fields
and putting those greasy pimps out of business
faceless statistics added to the jobless market
he thinks that by doing so the loose hipped sisters-in-arms still working
the streets
will get his Big Idea and offer him their gifts for free
then with a mr. smarty pant’s flair
pinches the waxed tips of his otherwise unruly moustache
a commemorative, in remembrance of Georges Clemenceau
he fancies himself a Radical of the very same ilk
and whispers into his cup, “Five is my lucky number…”
pats his mouth so precisely and decides to leave the tell-all napkin for a
tip
he saunters back to work where he has a chair at Monique’s Beauty Shoppe
and preaches revivalist to any client who’ll listen,
“Magnetics are the way of the future…”some of the women say nothing
but most bark at him, “Reinaldo, you fruitcake- just shut up and do my
hair!”

and Rivke who has since drawn a bath scented with patchouli
emerges in a towel too short revealing legs a mile long and lovely
that I could only imagine anacondas of spun nylon thin as filament
wrapped around their length, ankle to thigh
the most superior hosiery and highbrow enough for them
trotting around in the Village in raspberry strappy sandals of Italian
patent leather
the stiletto heels clicking against the come-lately pavement
on her way to Washington Square Park for a chess match with Lenin’s ghost
“I’ll show him-dictate the working class will he?”
she hollers this last injunction at blind, one-armed Charlie who perches
on a wooden Coca-cola crate just outside of Angie’s Five & Dime
which sells the best malts and cherry vanilla ice cream in the known
universe
and Angie doesn’t seem to mind Charlie hanging around out front
incessantly tapping a jump boot foot
his lonely arm studded with raised scars in Braille
he campfires his junk, jerks hard on the tourniquet using teeth strangely
white
he clenches the needle; the tip seeks out a bulging vein, a finger sensate
then miraculously, uses lips and tongue to inject ecstasy
through his heroin haze he hears Rivke and thinks her Cecilia, The Virgin
Saint
he holds out his Boston Red Sox cap for the pack of Camel cigarettes she
throws his way
hearing the gift hit it’s mark cries out, “Bless you sister!”

in her tattletale uniform when she was out to best Lenin,
uh-oh here comes Rivke…that rebellious derriere speaking in tongue
and straining against those bleached out Levi’s
the ones with the missing pockets and in their stead
embroidered in hot pink script: The Nihilist’s Revenge-Kiss This
her breasts rebelling against the sanctions of her crocheted halter-top
made by Rivke’s der bobe in Lithuania, whose fingers she said
looked like spider’s legs, spindly, double-jointed and just as hairy
mastering the crochet needle, a kerchief wearing, fat-bellied old-world
witch

how many summers she wreaked havoc on the city, that Rivke!
I saw Father Donovan’s cheeks, as though he’d never deviated, stained plum
wine
when he caught sight of her bending over Mr. Vitale’s fruit cart in that
halter-top
grasping the length of a speckled banana with an adept’s intent
that he suffered a stroke- right there and then
Rivke screamed with glee, “No more altar boys for you!”
when the stretcher came she plucked an apple from the pyramid’s top
and prying open his mouth stuffed the waxed orb in, “This is from Eve!”
then, quicksilver, yanks a banana from the cluster
and slides it askew beneath his chin
the Father’s face a model for Picasso now: a deformed rubicund nose
his own insignificant, the banana according to Pablo’s standards
an anatomically correct grin, which she pinches
had it been animate a bruise would surely rise and sasses southern voiced
“This comes with a peel off wrapper in honor of Ms. Sanger!”
genteel Carolina girls couldn’t have done better
squeezes my icy fingertips, “Now is that direct action or what?”
shocking all but jaded me: I always knew she had an anarchistic heart

icing for that framed diploma-a PhD from NYU in physics
her dissertation on the eternity of music, math and light
shunning scholarly robes for the essentials on the clothesline
because the pay was so much better, the work decidedly less contrived
she swore the university halls, until a free for-all, the last bastion of
elitism
financial aid, a masquerade, a servant to the Cause-she only bowed to Ethics
and confides in husky whisper
she’s waiting for the one who doubts to finally tip the scales
a house of cards collapsed, the death of King Copse’s rule

We’re not a monarchy- I must protest
True, she’s swift to agree
But well on our way to a people’s republic,
with the rest of the world condemning us as up and coming capitalists
there’s two sides to every penny, Lilith
indoctrination is cramming those market shelves uniformly labeled
not made in Tibet or Haiti, mind you; most favored nation, my toches
it’s more devious than that; they’re bringing the wall to us
but she mistakes my confusion for concurrence and seeing this eggs her on
and the cheapest trick of all, six feet under and my main man Marx would
roll
the worker-bees fall so hard
lovesick, scrapping jackals, automatons waving a flag
broken wind up sheep, embodying every ISM,
stinking to God’s high heaven
out of pity I bend space and time for them
men grieving me most of all
role-playing eternal big daddies
motherless orphans need food

centric as a child, I see in retrospect, she would not allow a rift
in her utopian green field theory
chaos in the form of a hungry mouth to feed
whose black or white perception is leprous to life and meaning
like Ramon Mercader, his back pocket hiding a pick
proof the insane are not exempt from collective consciousness
it’s efficacy all encompassing, stopping us both in our tracks
she, to meet with Lenin
I, while reading Eugene Onegin
a braying carnival huckster, censor and executioner
how out of place for him to kiss the brow he would have pierced
releasing her from his shame, she curls
a comma on the sidewalk, her halter a crimson Rorschach
my nightmare for years to come, from two stories above I cursed him
pleading insanity, he sports a jacket now, country club anglo white
dancing dervish with other hotel guests,
while she on hospital gurney under hateful fluorescent light
heads to her next chess match
hardest hit was one-armed Charlie, hearing the news tumbled off his crate
quit his junk and took up church
lights a votive every Thursday; he’s partial to 4:00 p.m.
Rivke, Patron Saint of the Proletariat
canonized by a blind man    (C) 2004


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