There’s thudding from the floor above that never seems to stop.
I’m trying to sleep, or waiting for the other shoe to drop
as midnight clomps toward 2 AM and hours of darkness dwindle
into the gray of going to work. This rent’s a fucking swindle.

Where’s my damn connection gone? The internet’s too slow.
Get me Jobs or get me Gates. Those bastards need to know.

I called her on a Friday, and we swore that we would meet.
I hailed a taxi, ended up along a different street —
similarly named, but swathed in layers of graffiti.
A drip of sweat ran down my neck; the air was cold and sleety.

Where’s that old-time romance gone? Who will sigh and blubber
over at hers at 3 AM with a lavatory rubber?

I saw a TV talking head while ordering a bagel
who talked about the budget mess — but then he quoted Hegel
about the end of history. Some Weltschmerz is okay,
but save it for the pop songs, man, and don’t get in the way.

Where’s my hometown paper gone? The owner’s on the run
from ranters on the blogosphere. Something must be done.

He met my eyes and shook my hand, and though you wouldn’t know it,
that jerk-off in a business suit calls himself a poet/
critic/impresario and manages quite well.
He smiled and quoted Dante, but I only thought of Hell.

Where’ve our tortured artists gone, Catullus or Syd Barrett?
Chasing after the latest grant and following the carrot.

The upstairs stomps are quicker now and spreading to the hall.
My head’s beneath the pillow. Damn it — won’t she ever call?
I half hope that she’s safe in bed and blithely fast asleep,
but fantasize her all alone and looking up mid-weep.

Where’s the just comeuppance gone? What happened to bad karma?
It got renamed and bottled up and bought out by Big Pharma.

There’s violence in the movies, and there’s violence on TV;
there’s violence on the city streets…. Fuck off! Don’t talk to me!
There’s anger in the headlines, and there’s fury in the verse
spat out at downtown open mikes. I don’t know whom to curse.

Where’ve the old-time standards gone? The censors look forlorn
from hip hop, emo, techno, goth. What happened to the porn?

Times Square’s gone all Disneyfied. The red-light district’s blue.
Godspeed to all you chicks with dicks, and hello, Scooby-Doo.
Farewell, Adult Emporium! You’re now a clothing store,
maybe a Planet Hollywood — and God knows which sucks more.

Where’s my filthy city gone? They smothered it in bleach,
hired a doorman, raised the rent, and placed it out of reach.

What’s to blame? Is it our greed or lack of common sense?
Is it violence in our past, or just incompetence?
Perhaps it’s economic or the crush of circumstance.
Or was it just a thwarted wish to get into her pants?

Where’s that upstairs thumping gone? The silence settles deep
into the still and humid air. I still can’t get to sleep.

Quincy R. Lehr’s first collection, Across the Grid of Streets, was published in 2008, and his second, Obscure Classics of English Progressive Rock, will appear in 2011. He lives in Brooklyn, where he teaches history.


First published in Measure, Volume 5, Issues 1 & 2 (2010)