In the Weeds
When I see the red-script Pepsi-Cola logo,
redesigned bottle, on a rise next to the river,
I remember how it used to sit
atop the lump of the soft drink plant
where we wandered among the weeds and debris.
I was distracted, fizzy with lust,
my hands always on your body.
I took abstract photographs
of rust, neon, dingy white walls—decay
was my artistic vision. Long Island City was so ugly,
there was a beauty to it; you, too, were ugly
and beautiful, like the neighborhood,
nicked by too much carelessly arranged industry.
We drank jug wine in the ragged shadow
of the scaffolding under the Pepsi letters,
and I liked that small rebellion,
didn’t need more. You snorted lines
when you thought I was watching the river.
Soon, you would wear down,
the way we wore down, like the Pepsi sign
wore down, like the plant that was torn down.
The neighborhood is frenzied with newness now—
new restaurants, new buildings, a new waterfront park,
everything rehabbed into something new.
I’m somebody new. Did that happen for you?
All over my city, mournful falls and improbable rises.
What I Had and What I Lost
An old apartment with a claw-footed
porcelain tub. A fuzzy dog.
A box of clothes,
another of books and music.
Pigeons that roosted on the top floor
of the building,
pushing in through broken window panes.
The one time I tiptoed up there,
I could hear a kit of cooing.
The soles of my shoes seemed caked
in sticky white pigeon waste.
Paint chipped off walls.
I had my then-husband,
a pillow held over my face
to cut off my breathing,
and that was all I had.
As soon as I threatened to leave,
he drained the bank account, maxed Amex.
He had a great smile.
Can we ever know anyone
before we truly know them?
I took a couch, lamp, and the dog
he didn’t care about.
Time—that’s what I lost.
The children that I never had.
I bag the homemade porn
from my ex-sister-in-law’s closet,
her leather and whips, a riding crop.
Down the block, in assisted living,
her partner hobbles about, confused.
The tin god who has demanded
a few mementos from
his dead sister’s home pulls up
in a U-Haul and starts dragging away
the coffee table, dining chairs,
wall hangings, even a bottle
of good Italian olive oil
in his hand. Fast as a conjurer,
he jimmies open the glass doors
of a cabinet and plunders
her Ethiopian crafts, laboring until
he falls to the floor, announcing
he’s having a heart attack.
I know this man. He has no heart.
Her other brother, the one who was
my husband once,
doesn’t show up and that’s good.
A neighbor comes for the scarves,
beads, and birdfeeders.
Her plants are brown stems in pots.
Amen, I say when the rooms are empty.
No one wants the old TV.
No one needs another couch.
SUSANA H. CASE is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently Dead Shark on the N Train, from Broadstone Books, 2020, which won a Pinnacle Book Award for Best Poetry Book and a NYC Big Book Award Distinguished Favorite. She is also the author of five chapbooks. Her first collection, The Scottish Café, from Slapering Hol Press, was re-released in a dual-language English-Polish version, Kawiarnia Szkocka by Opole University Press. She has co-edited, with Margo Taft Stever, the anthology I Wanna Be Loved by You: Poems on Marilyn Monroe, forthcoming in 2022 from Milk and Cake Press. www.susanahcase.com.