Ossian City

by Bill Yarrow


I can still hear
    the shriek
of the Laughing Lady,
    the crash
of a bucket of dimes,
    the waves
against the jetty at noon

I can still see the boardwalk
    empty with cyclists at 8 am,
at noon
    clogged with seagulls,
at midnight
    crowded with the ghosts
of sleeping old people

I can still hear
    the whir of rusted tackle
on a new marlin boat,
   the drip of cherry syrup
onto a cone of crushed ice,
    the scream of teens
dizzy for foam dice

I can still smell the greed
   of the hard sell,
fresh cigar ash in the sea,
   the mildewed freezer
in the dirty pool hall,
   the vinegar stink
of peanut-oil fries

I can still hear
    the sinister click
of Zippo lighters,
   the Chesterfield voices
of the Pokerino widows,
    the oily patter
of pock-faced shills

I can still taste the flounder chowder
served by hairnet waitresses
to foul-mouthed barbers
     at City Lunch
while in the alley
     black men carted ice
on their naked backs with tongs

But most on sun-starved nights
I smell the foaming
    German shepherds
locked in cages
    under the pier
and the unworldly perfume
    of the pony-tailed girl
who played alone with darts