Ward Stories
(Column: Ward Stories)
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I am feeling a bit nostalgic as I present the poetry of Samuel Pirro again.
Sam has reminded me that the first time his work was featured in this column,
it was 1997- when things were very different in this world. I am happy to have
Sam back in my column and I am sure you will enjoy Sam's unique
storytelling as much as I do.

Extrication

by Samuel Pirro

Up to my old tricks.
Taking to the streets. Again.
Spending money, what little I have, prodigiously. Again.
Sitting on benches and in restaurants, writing for life. Again.
A seasoned time-traveler this night.
Over the protracted mourning, the bouts of malevolence.
Pretty much over her.
I would, like Dickens's John Baptist Cavalletto, who has no watch but always knows the
time, learn patience and gentleness and easy contentment.

Winding down, on the bus home.
Hardly any traffic and the bus moving very, very fast.
I have never taken this ride at night.
Impossible to read the numbers of the cross streets: the lighting is poor and, too,
at many of the streets the numbers are obscured by scaffolding.
Piano, piano: I remind myself to be careful in traffic.
Not a time to be many places at once.
Visions of missing my stop and being left in some wasteland where idle cops will have
their sports with me.
Again.
Scared. Very scared. Scared but purposeful.
I ask the driver what cross street we are at.
He doesn't answer.
I ask again.
He doesn't answer.
An assassin. One of mom's people. So my fancy runs.
I check my rage, let it alone.
But nothing can go wrong for me this night: like magic, a familiar building announces
itself.
I leap ecstatically from the bus.
I am a half block from home.
I do a little dance on the pavement.

An Adventure on the C Train
by Samuel Pirro

When you're a certified crazy, these things happen - I suppose.
Eight o'clock at night: I board the uptown C train.
The uptown C does not carry passengers beyond 168th street.
Empties out there and moves on to what I always fancied to be a graveyard
for abandoned subway cars.
Exhausted, when I sit - the car is perhaps two thirds full - my head drops
and I begin to nod out.
A sweet delirium.
Impossible to say how long it lasts.
The sound of my newspaper falling from my lap, fluttering to the floor wakes me.
To an empty car.
To a train that is not moving.
Dread. All-encompassing dread: I'm in the graveyard.
I'm entombed in the graveyard and soon I'll be choking for air.
I rush into the next car.
Empty.
Four more cars: all empty.
Finally, as I enter the sixth car, at the far end of the car, a trainman standing
outside his cubicle. Leaning against it.
I run to him.
"Have we passed 168th?"
He shrugs. Neither a yes or a no, the laziest, most indifferent of shrugs.
Just then, the train lurches forward, jerk-staggers into 168th St.
Perhaps half a dozen people exit the train with me.
Ordinarily at this hour, a goodly exodus at this station.
Where have all the people gone?
None of this is coming down at three in the morning when you might
expect things to get this weird.
Spacey, very spacey: bring out the vat of haldol deconoate

Double-Billing
by Samuel Pirro

Punching air.
Using a phone card and punching air.
The keys on the phone refusing to register when I depress them.
An operator interjects.
A buoyant lilt to her voice: "How may I help you?" she asks.
No doubt she gets a cut on operator-assisted calls.
Weary, I surrender to her unconditionally, read off the numbers on my card.
When my friend answers, I begin to rant about the phone.
Rant for about two minutes when a tape sounds, announcing in
its placidly peremptory way that I must deposit twenty-five cents
if I wish to continue.
A magic phone: somehow it has evolved into double-billing.
Rasped by the whole business, I give it up.
Later in the day, when my rage has subsided, I reflect on the grotesque humor
of the encounter.
But these mishaps have their dark side:
It's three o'clock in the morning, somewhere in the wilds of Queens.
Some poor soul, mad with grief and rage, has staggered there.
Though he could not, if you asked him, tell you where he is.
He is lost, imagines assassins everywhere.
Is down to his last quarter.
He moves to a phone, to call his therapist.
Except the phone he happens upon is a magic phone.
This phone delights in bouncing you around, wiping out connections.
We are talking: This number has been disconnected.
We are talking: This number has been changed.
We are talking: There is no further information about this number.
Until finally, what our poor soul hears, it doesn't exactly say this but it's what
he hears: "No one exists at this number."
Whereupon, blasted by his adventure, he careens to the nearest psychiatric
waiting room.
Where they pronounce him mad and stick a needle in his buttock.
Hey, it happens. I've been there.
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