Friday, October 17, 2008

High Performance



I ran away from an abrasive home at sixteen
Into the slaps and slugs of an abusive lover
Till a day I lay him open with a frying pan
And disappeared out a window in a country night.
I never finished high school and didn’t know nothin’
You’d call useful, but I had a body built for bounce
And a deep down desperation that helped hitchhike me
Three hundred miles to Old Street in Philadelphia.


Ever been down on Old Street where nothin’ ever changes
But the music on the juke at Gil’s? Probably not.
It’s a place amateurs don’t come ‘less they’re feeling small,
Lookin’ for pussy or the jolly pop jive doo jee.
First night I walked into Gil’s, Simon and Garfunkle
Were strummin’ through the stale smoke when I bridged my first hit.
I‘ve been layin’ myself down on Old Street ever since.
Don’t know why they call it that. Just an old street, I guess.
Looks old, beat, dark and dusty, cobblestones down the block discourage cars.
Shadows of time discourage the soul.
Sidewalk wrinkles will crack your ankles if you tread quick.
And there is those’ll crack your skull if you tread too slow.
Nothin’ but flop houses, guttersnipes, bars like Gil’s and
Crevices in-between where whores do stand-up business
On the quick. It been that way forever and then some.
In my lifetime I don’t think it was ever New Street.
It’s got a permanent smell of age, death and stale sex,
Perfidy perfume. It clings like dirty soap scum.


First night in I thought I’d slid to hell. Gil’s was as dark
As Poe’s pit with its own stink of failure and old beer.
Sittin’ sulky at the bar and hid in the corners
Was the debris of life. I took my place as litter,
Ordered a whiskey sour on the rocks and sat letting
The tears in my eyes melt with the ice cubes in the glass.
Nobody did any carding or caring on Old Street.
I set a Marlboro pack from my purse on the bar.
Stuck one in my mouth and ‘fore the filter’s wet some guy
Lights me up. Ten minutes later I’m lightin’ him up
Back in the alley on my ass behind the trashcans.


Few humps later I’ve got me a flop and a kit
And I straddle a bumpy old mattress on the floor
Where I can spread my poison out like a hard won prize.
“Dry your eyes and come with me. I’m on your side,” Simon says.
“Don’t worry ‘bout the rough times. You’ve found a friend. Whenever
You feel down and out, just come to me. I’ll comfort you.
You feel lost in the night and I’ll light up your darkness.
I’ll ease your pain.” I pulled the plunger and filled the tube,
Slammed silvergirl into a vein and I sailed the night,
Flowed above my troubles, eased my mind, stilled my waters.


But it ain’t 1970 anymore, is it?
I’m still here. Ain’t as easy you’re hard pushin’ whatever
As it was at seventeen. Darkness is my buddy
And shield and makeup on the street. But my body’s lost
Its bounce and it ain’t takin’ me anywhere tonight.
I’m old, beat, dark and dusty. So I sit in my flop,
One of the many I’m been in since now and creation
And ain’t one any much different from another.
I’m sittin’ on a bunk bed with my faithful kit spread
On the pillow, Uncle Kracker on the radio.


“I am tired,” I say.
“I’ll make everything alright. I’ll tuck you in tonight.”
“I don’t want to be tucked. I wanna leave. Want to quit.”
“Where would you go?”
“Don’t know. Don’t matter. Get ‘way from Old Street and you”
“Guarantee you’ll never find anyone like me, babe.”
“Why, what do you do for me? You don’t give me nothin’
Don’t get me no money.”
“Don’t blame me for the way your life strayed. I don’t care you want to leave. You wanna go, then go.”
I say. “I don’t know if I can. I don’t know”
“Follow me,” it whispers, “I make you free.”
I unwrap the bindle of China Cat I scored tonight and prepare my kit. I sit naked in one more dark flophouse room on one more Old Street night. Alone and wantin’ it done and over. I feel along my inner thigh for the least scarred spot and do up.
“This’s mortal combat, “I hear it hum. “Real high performance schmeck.”
And I smile. “It is pure thoroughbred white horse, the uncut stallion, an unbroken bronco.”
Silvergirl sails in.
“It’s a ride to survive,” and I laugh.
I press the plunger and let that high performance Harry Smack swim through my veins like the fish in the sea, and he tucks me in that night, and he eases my mind.
And then he stills my waters.

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