Main Street Rag, 2009
by Tony Trigilio
—for my brother
I wanted to evict
the pigeon who snuck
in the living room window
three weeks ago.
Its fat tiptoe around
the baby (not ours) laughing
at the ceiling. I wish
I could’ve loved
the bird like Shelly did,
the way she loves the swarm
cloud of the world. I can’t.
I wish, like a sensible
pigeon, I could just waddle
to the curb and go to sleep.
He ate wasabi chips
from her hand, smog fluting
from his wings,
in his throat.
Shelly went back to her plate
of rice and beans,
never got sick,
while the nest
of warblers in my head
worried about fleas they get
from dumpster pecking.
And bird flu. We argued about
their life among our detritus.
I made a case for “avian flu.”
But I knew. They don’t
carry it—I research these things.
The baby flung dispensations
at the ceiling light, our pigeon
wobbled with him.
I confess: I don’t have to see
bugs to know them.
They grow in pustules
in the air around me.
They live in hospitals
I’m afraid of—
a fear of staph last time I saw
my brother, an IV engraved
in his arm, oxygen tube
up his nose,
as we scanned each other
for forgiveness: beatings I took
as the youngest, the yellow
thrall of my privilege.
Our last joke, his dream
our mother came back,
urged him to get
a second opinion at the wrong
hospital—the one he planned to sue.
There are birds, are they pigeons?
A rail beak on stilts
circled the baby. Groomed
a roosting ledge.
What was she singing,
our mother in that dream,
that fantastic return,
happy as a question mark.
His breath maneuvers the leaflets of the heart, flut-
ters in scrap, my brother who barely learned to touch
things and hold them, really feel them give up in your
hands. His first cat Tea, dog Scotty: his animals
arise to their names the way a body, blushed
by a wave, seems surprised by all the attention.
The lake. Behind his cottage. Fire pits, beer cans,
a rammed and sullen pickup chugging through the night
for music and the companionship of engines.
He won’t say why he lied to his doctor about
cocaine. His blood cusps flicker when he sleeps. A sheet
like a soft membrane hangs between his bedroom and
kitchen. He says the doctors know nothing about
pills. Sleeps at his stamping machine—they’re watching him
at work, my brother bypassed and I all adren-
aline and keeping to myself, spectator nod-
ding at the end of his stories. His white German
Shepherd was named after taking blotter acid,
this is all I know. No clue why Tea sometimes is
Oscar, or why this cottage was built without doors.
THE SADNESS OF LEAVING
Summers a palm tree rattles, an oafish truck
is heading east and everyone else stays indoors.
To step outside for a smoke, to turn red like
you’re burning in a garden. Summers, fog,
steam cobbled up from the ocean. A telephone
is ringing in your pocket in Oakland, reminding
you to take a picture—to not forget the way
the morning light hits Golden Gate Park like
cotton mouth summer after summer.
Every day waking up in a plain neighborhood
across from Ron’s Muffler Shop.
A telephone is ringing in your pocket tonight.
Scab of palm fronds tattooed on the sidewalk.
A U-Haul the size of all the things that make
you angry sitting in your driveway.
POEM TAKING PLACE IN LITTLE ROOMS
—for Joe DeRoche
My 900 square feet & one
bathroom. Street lamp pulses
through living room
window like an insomniac.
Great moments in history
only happen in apartments
big enough for staircases
to fit inside.
The one place I’ve lived
for more than three years
at a time.
I dreamed strangers
and chitchat, eyelashes
in the mirror, & now
to write it all down.
Stray breeze brushing left leg,
my tipsy vibrato. Every home
is shy until you get to know it,
until it’s safe enough for a cat
to sleep in the bathtub.
You try hour after hour,
nervous as clouds, & one day
she’s just there curled on
Things happen on their own.
The moon moves across my lap
& I couldn’t be happier.
It’s possessive, the way snow
sacks prairie tallgrass pretending
elegance for months at a time.