On St. John’s and Franklin Avenue
there is a bullet hole in the pay phone.
He reaches out to touch its opening
and I am instantly jealous. He tells
the story about the robbery and the
bodega as the police camera follows
our journey. The new neighbors stumble
drunk from the new and expensive pub.
Its decor is a hodgepodge of old tile and
rusted picture frames. We pretend we
do not feel out of place. Control the volume
in our tone. We jerk at the megaphone symphony
all slurred and entitled from the blonde girl
with torn jeans. She is on stage. She is a rockstar.
This corner of crime and dirt and curry is her audience.
She knows she owns the sidewalk. She wants
another beer. She wants her boyfriend’s lips.
She wants the world’s attention. Her pout says,
this has been promised to her since birth. Her friends
shake their head at us apologetically. We nod.
Accept this favor with disgust and envy.
We walk away. Further down the block.
He no longer remembers the story about the
bodega. The robbery. It is too silent. He
walks on my right, nearest the curb to signal
my safety. My hand wants to brush his—but
it is Brooklyn. It is late, and that’s something
people just don’t do.
Copyright © 2019 Mahogany L. Browne. Used with the permission of the poet.