Poetry: Drew Pisarra

Making Ends Meet

Back when I was in my 20s, friends would host a Friday Fish Fry as a way to drum up funds to pay the shotgun’s monthly rent. In my 30s, I would hustle cash from temp jobs like farm surveys and a paralegal gig for toothpaste copyrights abroad. In my 40s, I was flush. I spent freely. Indiscreetly. There’s a pair of auburn shoes I own that cost more than a suit.

How I miss my former riches. (I can’t access former wishes.) Unemployed and in my 50s, I see money as estranged. Hard-earned savings now betray me; countless Seamless costs derange me. Freelance checks come when they want to; motherloads come not at all.

Thanks to pandemic precautions, I will skip yearly appointments for the dentist and the doctor. What I can’t skip is the analyst I’ve finally secured. I have also made fresh contact with my financial advisor who foretells uncertain futures and assures me I’ll live long. (I’m unclear whether tidings like this forecast fair or foul.)

I considered an excel chart to chart all current expenses – from my Instacart deliveries to my unpaid inbox bills. I could monitor the dollars then cut slack ‘round any coinage. But it strikes me as obsessive. Do I really want such knowledge? I’m not crying poor. I’m solvent. I can watch the market’s heartbeat as stocks zigzag up and down.

On the phone my brother wonders: How long until he retires? Should we pool projected savings and move south to Mexico? On the weekends, we reflect upon the pie charts and the bar graphs that predict how green the grass grows when we’re silver-haired in full. Whence comes the gold, I ask. Whence comes the gold. We will live today, tomorrow, the day after that but after that we’ll have to wait and see.    



Calling Myself Out 

The days are much like the nights in that there’s no one around, not a soul nearby. Oh, I’m here. Don’t get me wrong. But sometimes me is as much in the dark before sunset as after the orb has sunk. The light doesn’t cut anymore. My vision dims. Is this unmarked, unfettered hour the proper time for tea? If so, should I have a conversation with me? 

I could skip over introductions, jump right past the how-do-you-do’s. Not that there’s anything wrong with niceties. It’s just that there’s so much that merits comment outside of the weather. Shall we talk of international crises? Our boredom with death? The crack in the ceiling that draws the eye to the top of a lemon-colored wall that’s peeling? 

Eventually we’ll get to appearances. My hair’s a mess. Your pants, too tight. My skin’s gone to ruin. There’s grit in your eye. Since you’re me, it seems doubtful either of us will take offense. If you were on the phone, would you hang up? Never! If I were on the phone, would I listen? I’d try. Let’s say “I love you” before we hang up. Kisses, my friend. Buh-bye. 



As I Remember, As I Predict

First they shuttered the Bronx Zoo and the Brooklyn Library, then Broadway, then the Met, then the multiplex. Then restaurants went dark except for delivery. Then bars and gyms. Then places of worship. Then public schools. When non-essential businesses closed, we grew our hair long and opened our windows at seven p.m. to scream.

Some cafes opened with outdoor seating. K through 12 invited kids back to kick them back out. K through 12 then gave them the option to come again then took that option away. The subway shut down around one then opened at five. Buses were free for those brave enough to board in the back. Travel was discouraged. Florida didn’t care.

New York awaited the arrival of the vaccine. No one talked of a cure. That was asking too much. We hoped to survive for the year if not a life. We wondered if this constituted living. Everyone revered the governor, reviled the mayor, ridiculed the president, roasted the VP. Dr. Birx was a clown, Fauci, a saint. (I was a hermit. You were a ghost.)

The rumors were troubling: Now COVID was morphing, reconfiguring. It developed newfangled symptoms like frostbitten toes and eyes that turned red. It added to the strain. They said there were germs in your cum. People extolled the preventative powers of zinc, of mouthwash, of Vitamin C. Then again, people always tout Vitamin C. People always exfoliate.

As for the vaccine, three were in limbo. We were told of various side effects but couldn’t remember which went with which; symptoms like arthralgia, cephalgia, myalgia, edema, erythema, pyrexia, and “the rigors” as well as an intermittent inability to forge on and face the day. This too was a symptom. Or a side effect. This too felt old. Dispiriting.

Old Hope springs eternal. Benefits were wide-ranging (if not fast in coming) from solutions anticipated if not assured. Whether they were short-term or long-term no one would say. Would we finally be able to sing in a chorus (open-mouthed and shoulder to shoulder) or attend a funeral as a group, a group of funerals or a group at funerals? Either would do.

When the shots were finally given, the friendly phlebotomists dispensed serums slowly, refraining from needling pregnant women. hemophilacs, children under 18. As for those religious extremists, they waited for God to send them a message – perhaps another virus, instead of a cure. The end is nigh. The end is recurrent. Call the end something like COVID-20. All clear.


Bio: As one half of conceptual art duo Saint Flashlight (with Molly Gross), Drew Pisarra has been finding playful ways to get poetry into public places such as film-themed haiku on a movie marquee and Shakespeare-inspired sonnets in a Brooklyn theater’s windows. Their unconventional installations have been part of the O, Miami Poetry Festival, Free Verse: Charleston Poetry Festival, and Capturing Fire’s Queer International Poetry Summit and Slam in D.C. His first book of poetry Infinity Standing Up, a collection of sonnets, came out in early 2019. His short story collection You’re Pretty Gay, was published by Chaffinch Press in 2021. Additionally, he penned his first radio play The Strange Case of Nick M. – commissioned by Imago Theatre and premiering on K-BOO FM in 2021.

1 comment :

  1. Love these, Drew! As always you're making me ponder...

    -Gleana A.


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