Kyle Churney

Photo of Basquiat

And in a New York no one will ever see again
the man in dreads leans over the camera,

                                           confidence
smoldering from parted lips
in the street dividing the matrices of fire escapes

in a city before
Starbucks
                 when the young lived in suburbs hosting

off the sweet green bile of the city.

In a New York I will never see, by the stricture
          of frame & aperture, he is

                New York, lord of the subfusc
tenements
                existing for him, our impression.

                                                       (Tenements
are now boutiques & condos in a New York
no one will see:
                               the mounds of garbage
in the air shafts, they say, became the loam
of commerce—).

                     There are those who can knead
a lover’s face
                      & feel only the skull,

like a cartographer who rubs his hands across the blue
of a map

& scrapes them on the ocean bottom.

Augur of the dead.
His skulls: bulbs that light, for us, the necropolis.

But this is before they swept the flotsam
into gutters—
                                              He sees with a

beautiful worthlessness.
This is after his worth.

It is permanence posited on endless change—

You see him,      
                    you will never see New York again.



Now


My hand is between my legs—
& his, of course, is on the camera…

And through the open window comes
a calm gray
                  so unlike Los Angeles—,

           that cassette-hiss & suture of causeway,
           an oily wind

swooning the studio’s red curtain.

 

                                    Kind pornographer!

My intimate flesh is my most banal,
& I thank you with this dull sin—

                                    & you, Los Angeles,

though you give but infinite
light-posts, a drop of diesel on a high heel;

crust-punks with pit-bulls
outside the coffee mart,

& this gentle man with loins for a head.

 

Today the clouds hold a hand over your eyes,

their lucent skin likely sunburnt in minutes
as each day over-
exposes into the next,

your slap on the wrist
for making this life possible—

      scarves & hijabs ruffling
            in the wind
      as a pink, rhinestoned Hummer
            stops at a light;
      a plate of butter lettuce

            tossed with lemon,
      the groped rind in a puddle—

              gifts that make the now now

     & the means that earn them
narcotized.

 

The gray traffic, camera screen
& me—
            a decision less of poor thinking

than of
not—
            2,000 frames/minute
            for twenty minutes—

a consequence realized with time.

Views accrue, the movie
coupling itself over & over,

the world’s fist
of pleasure
                  thrust in the desert rain

of want.

Twilight in West Town

In wind, the factory’s waft of chocolate
but tonight there is no wind. Perched on the eaves,
pigeons festoon the red-brick facsimiles
that frame the blue. Hipsters gesticulate

by open doors with cigarettes, their glow
annotating heavy talk, while a fan
shakes its head: no, no. Somewhere, Latin
jazz on vinyl trickles out a window.

Why parlay the beauty into horror?
The knuckleheads saunter, dressed in their best
ideas of thugs, kush & burners in pocket.

Pasteled by dusk, the Hancock Tower
thrusts into the firmament. God bless.
The gutter’s fetor hints of blacker secrets.

Wendy XuKyle Churney’s poems have most recently appeared in The Journal, Harpur Palate, and Rhino. A recipient of fellowships from the Virginia Center for Creative Arts and the Ragdale Foundation, he lives in Chicago and reads for Another Chicago Magazine.