At First and 1st

“How can a street intersect itself? I must be at the nexus of the universe!” —Kramer, NBC sitcom Seinfeld

"Steam and Lights: Lower East Side," urban 75, 1987Here
you cross on red with caution
heads turned in watchful wait
rouged cheeks and ruby lips
on models matrons mothers men
wearing red and heads in shades
from flaming copper coin
to fire engine red sirens blaring
to the orange glow below a fire lit
or it’s long black dipped in burgundy
like a painter’s brush
and still called red

We patiently wait out the red
crossing at the curb
the start of a race
red rover red rover
on red alert eyes a void
avoid meeting each other
instead seeing red
annoyance creeping crimson
tail lights a blur and each horn blast
prickly as a raspberry bush
as cars rush past

Red neon blazing uptown
red dragon down
where ribbons of red meat
hang in shop windows charred
scarred and remembering red
valentines hearts roses
deep and pure
the color of true love rich
and red as the stripes
on the flag at Ground Zero
hanging there still

And somewhere in between
business as usual
as bloodshot masses
spill out of buildings
amidst Merlot laughter
and rouge rot rosso rojo
a rash of foreign sounds
and strawberry fields forever
slapping the senses
dusk to dawn
in a city that never sleeps

We wait keeping watch
for green light go
suspended in the animation
patiently impatient
eyes darting to and fro
and wanting to part traffic
like the red sea
all of us in a desperate
got-to-get-there hurry to be
on our way to
somewhere

Pathways 2008Copyright © 2002 Patricia Petro • All rights reserved.
“At First and 1st” was selected for publication in the Owens Community College literary
journal, PATHWAYS 2008.
Photo: “Steam and Lights: Lower East Side” by urban75, 1987.