At the Cubbyhole Bar
for Donna Bianco, retired sergeant, NYPD
Two martinis up with olives, you tell me stories
about your father dead from AIDS, his late-night
fishing pal dead from the same thing.
Your mother worried she’d caught it.
No Ma, Pops didn’t touch you for twenty years. You’re ok.
Once, after she tried to force you
to eat liver and onions, you threw Barbie and Ken
down the stairs. As they plunged,
you made them call out, I’d rather die
than eat liver and onions, and your mom
came out of the kitchen crying, tripped
on the tangled limbs at her feet.
When the planes hit, you were there,
saved your men, the whole squad,
and they weren’t even yours.
A buddy asked you to cover his shift
so he could spend the day with his kid.
You say, all the guys are getting cancer
in the lungs, the stomach, in your case, the breasts.
The first lumps got cut out, but more are growing,
you can feel them.
That morning, after the buildings buckled,
a brown skirt of cloud billowed up.
You saw her, a bleached blond
in purple satin shirt, no body
below the waist, thought how a human head
weighs 8 pounds, lifted that weight
of a newborn, zipped the bag.
You wanted to be a cop
because you hated cops.
At the Canal Street barrier, a lady pleads
to run home, get her dog –
you said, no one below Canal –
but she promised the risk was all on her.
You knew it didn’t work that way,
spoke into her face, come back
with that dog, bring him this way
so he can lick my cheek.