Two storefronts next to our pool hall, deemed unsafe by the city, still employ drug dealers. Doors and windows, like rotten clams, are always open.
Expired work permits in filthy windows, like makeup on prostitutes, give false hope.
Business owners locked into leases chug whiskey from coffee cups and weigh options:
arson, suicide, bankruptcy, abandonment...
The guy at the clothing shop up the street resorted to selling bongs and vaporizers,
“for tobacco use only,” to survive the recession until his goods were commandeered.
The corner gas station’s alcohol license is suspended again for selling to underage kids.
This afternoon a lady walks into the pool hall alone and asks for money; her baby needs formula. When I say no, she says, “fuck you then, bitch” slamming the door behind her.
“Baby, yeah right,” Willy chuckles and shakes his head.
Some days more people come in to sell their stories than to buy table time.
Some days the landscape closes in on me like my father’s superfluous advice.
Before the neighboring store closed down, the owners, all of their children, and friends
sat outside on plastic lawn chairs cursing, spitting, and trying to sell used goods.
If they played electric guitars; it would be an urban deliverance.
When we opened the pool hall, I overheard the owner of the tattoo shop say,
“Oh no, there goes the neighborhood.”
But because Willy’s on the front pool table, and Lady Day’s singing Speak Low,
on the radio, I smile despite my father, who warned me it’s all about:
location, location, location.