Friday, June 15, 2018

Juan Tituana, Marianne Szlyk, and NYC! (part 1)

On Gray Thursdays

Chinatown lights glow
like hard candies
red green purple yellow white
against the meringue of fog.

The colors sting
in February, not quite March,
when the last ice and snow
and wrappers crunch
like the sugar coating
on a cheap spice drop.

The colors coat the tongue
in sweater-weather May,
almost June,

when humid air congeals
like the bubble tea
that hides between cubes
of not-yet melted ice

on gray Thursdays
in Brooklyn’s Chinatown.

[Originally published in A Touch of Saccharine (Kind of a Hurricane Press, 2014).]

Kew Gardens, NY

The Tetris blocks are falling faster
and faster
as the balalaikas shreik
through the laptop speakers.
The shapes the blocks make
never fit together.
They pile up
until they remind her of buildings
that hide the sun
on Queens Boulevard.
But the piles of blocks
hide the night,
the orange sky without stars,
the thump of her upstairs neighbor
riding above her head
faster and faster.
The game ends,
but the balalaikas
still race
through her veins
like the black coffee
she buys every morning
on Queens Boulevard
after the nights she cannot sleep
because her neighbor rides.

[Originally published in Insert Coin Here (Kind of a Hurricane Press, 2013).]

Listening to Robert Glasper’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”

The last song
escapes your laptop
and rises just above your head.
A black man’s voice fuzzes,
then disappears around
the brilliant corners.
With a flick of a switch,
the drum crisps.
The voice reappears.

Glasper remembers Nirvana’s song.
You don’t.

Other music blasted out
of the clothing stores
on Jamaica Ave. in Queens.
The hoop-earring girls
in neon leggings and high-tops
and lemon raspberry perfume
danced down the sidewalks
to “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless).”
They were singing along with her
la da dee la dah dah.

Dressed for success
at your temp job,
you wanted 
to sing and dance
with them.

Dressed to grade papers,
you dance now.

[Originally published in Of/with.]

Tropical Fantasy on the J-Train

While Bridie’s husband chatted up everyone else
in English, Spanglish, and French,
she sipped from a bottle of
Tropical Fantasy,
its blue acid fizz bitter, sweet, and cheap.
Her husband kept up his brogue;
she imagined losing hers.

She wondered what it was like
to live alone above the bodega
so close to the subway,
the all-night screech and rumble,
the eyes of passengers upon her.

Wrapping herself in the blanket
of her husband’s words,
she shuddered.
She could not live alone,
even in a daydream.

[Originally published in Literature Today.]

The Song is Blue Ketchup
On Sunday in Tompkins Square Park
only the hopelessly uncool wear all black.
A man in a purple kilt
a white Pomeranian
with matching streaks.
You sip kale juice.

The back-up singers onstage wear nuns’ habits.
They swing their oversize
Mardi Gras bead rosaries
in time to the ska beat.
Someone’s father in a fedora
dances and plays trombone.
I sip beet juice.

Children’s music plays in the distance.
The song is blue ketchup on chicken nuggets.
The song is sneaky sips of orange soda.
The song is not you.
The song is blue ketchup.

The air is heavy with warm earth and asphalt.
You sip beet juice.
A nun in navy blue polyester
opens up her matching umbrella.
I sip kale juice. 
Spring rain will start up again soon.

[Originally published in Aberration Labyrinth.]

At the Almost-Empty Vegetarian CafĂ© 

Prewar buildings cast long shadows on this October street,
blacking out yellow and orange leaves, the brilliant sky,
and her memories of marriage outside this city.

The clunk, whir, and grind of a carrot juicer
overwhelms the radio tuned to avoid
the silly love songs of American Top 40.

She wonders how long these shadows and sounds will continue.

Outside shadows melt into dusk the color of soy sauce and miso.
The man she intended to marry shepherds his children
into their building, the Cliff Dwelling over the river.
He will never stop here.

The man she did marry flies into this city tonight
with his new wife, his new Linda.
He will never stop here.

Only the young man nursing his tea, nursing his poetry,
living on half-price produce at home,
stops here.

Looking out to the almost-empty dining room,
she wonders how long all of this can go on.

[Originally published in The Four Seasons (Kind of a Hurricane Press, 2015).]

I hope that you enjoy my words and Juan Tituana's beautiful images!  There will be more soon.  In the meantime, here is some music for you.

Let's start with a video of the Warren Wolf Quintet at Dizzy's Club Coca Cola:

Here the Emmet Cohen Trio plays Thelonious Monk's "Off Minor":

The Robert Glasper Trio with Bilal performs "Double Black" at the Village Vanguard:

I'll finish with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers at Sweet Basil in 1985:


  1. From Angelee Deodhar: Marianne Szlyk's poems and Juan Tituana's visuals make a delightful combination.Thanks to Marianne for bringing this audio- visual literary experience to us,the black and white image is hauntingly beautiful,best wihes,angelee on Juan Tituana, Marianne Szlyk, and NYC! (part 1)

  2. Agreed, Angelee.

    The black and white images are powerful and coupled with your poems, Marianne, a feast for all of us. Thank you.