Super Poems

by

01/26/2020

Neighborhood: Lower Manhattan, Tribeca


Waterbugs

Before I was a super
If you asked me what
A waterbug was I’d of said
One of those little things
That kind of runs on the top
Of ponds or quiet pools
On the sides of streams

But at 258 Broadway
Down in the sub-basement where
I had to make my way through
The cavernous half lit
Cement spaces to get to the
Garbage compactor
We had the kind of waterbug that’s
Really an overgrown cockroach
You’d think you saw something
Moving in the shadows and
Sure enough a waterbug
Was running
Up the wall

Those fucking things are fast man
It kind of creeps you out
The way they seem to run willy-nilly
Zig-zagging at high speeds and then
Disappear into a crack in the cement
Or a sliver around a pipe by the ceiling
And you’d start to wonder
If there’s like millions of them
Under the floor and in the walls
And the ceiling and all
Just kind of waiting
Biding their time
I was always looking
Here and there
And always seeing them
Running
Or even worse standing still
Antennas moving
Feeling the air
And getting ready to run

I had to go down there
Once or twice a day
To check the garbage compactor
And tie off the bags of
Garbage that grew and snaked out
Across the floor
You had to tie off the garbage tubes
Wheel the sections over to the
Freight elevator which was just a
Rusting platform with a metal arch
That pushed open the flaps
Above on the sidewalk
So you could wrestle and drag the trash
To the curb

That elevator was an ancient hydraulic job
Always dripping
The bugs liked the dirt and puddles and
The spilled trash where mice would chew lines
In the plastic to get at the rotting food
I wasn’t too swift about how the adjustments
Worked
You had to add water
Check a gauge
Pump in some air
This and that
I really didn’t know
What the hell I was doing

So this one day I get on the elevator
With my garbage tubes and I pull the chain
To start the thing and everything’s cool
I start rising up into the dark of the
Shaft and the bell’s ringing above
To warn pedestrians to stand clear
I looked way up at
The yellow line of light
Two floors up where the flaps didn’t
Quite join
When all of a sudden
The freaking thing slows
Hesitates and then takes off
Like a shot flying up into the dark and
Slamming into the trap doors
Flinging them open and arriving
Into the daylight

I kept going up into the air a few feet
Then landed back down and stood there
As if everything was ok the bell had stopped
There was a taxi driving up Warren Street
A young woman with a brief case walking by
Smiled at me
We had the briefest passing surprised shared smile
I was just about to lean down and start to drag the
Garbage over to the curb when I see something
Peeking out of the plastic and
Sure enough there’s a waterbug
Emerging from inside the bag
Crawling up and out
Right where my hand is grabbing the tied off end
And just then the elevator decides to drop
To fall

Back down the two stories into
The dark
And as it fell I
Collapsed against my will
Sprawled out on the
Plastic tubes of trash
Looking up
And heard myself going
Ahhhhhhhh
As the doors closed above and shut out
The daylight again
And even as I was falling
For all I knew to my death
I was thinking about that
Waterbug
Scurrying on my clothes
On my skin
And not even about the
People I loved or all
The things I’d never get to
Do
But instead
My last thought on
Earth
Was going to be
About that fucking
Waterbug 

Sounds of the City

Not Philip Glass
The other guy
Called me up
Asking if I’d come
Check out something
In his apartment
Was making a noise
He was kind
Of a nervous guy
So I go sure
I’ll come see
Although I’m
Probably the least
Handy
Super ever to
Hold the job
In the history
Of New York City
And I was thinking of how
He’d called me when a
Manhole cover
Had blown
On Warren Street
And there wasn’t anything I
Could do about that
Or even explain why
The fucking things
Decide to fly into
The air now
And again
But also
How people
Seemed to like to say
“He’s actually better than Phillip Glass!”
Like they have
Some kind of
Insider info
But at the time I’d seen
Koyaanisqatsi
And listened to
Philip Glass’
The Photographer
And I liked that a lot
The drive
And push of
The music
But anyway
I went on up
And we stood
In his kitchen
Listening to a
High pitched
Buzzing sound
And I saw that
The timer on his
Stove was pulled out
So I pushed it back
In and that
Was that
He laughed
He was really a nice guy
But I still remember
How when I first met him
He tried to
Explain to me
Who he was
By saying
“I record for
Deutsche Grammophone
Records”
And I said
“Oh! That’s pretty cool.”
Which I knew
Sounded dumb but
What do you say to that?
“I’m the Super.
I mop the floor.”
You know
I just wasn’t sure 

Ghosts

My super’s studio
Apartment had one
Window it must
Have been ten feet tall
With blinds that
Reached up to the ceiling and
A wand you’d twist
To open or close
The vents
The mice would climb
That long wand
And swing a bit
As they climbed
Stop for a second
Then scurry on up
And disappear into
The ceiling
An exterminator
Came once a month and
Sprayed for roaches
And dropped glue traps
Here and there
In the subbasement
And the mice would
Get stuck
Fast their fur
Sunken in the
Sticky chemicals
But they’d still be
Alive
Squeaking
And then what
Are you supposed to do
With a live mouse
Stuck in a plastic
Glue trap?

*

For a while there
A guy showed up
And walked under my window
Every night
He wore a suit
And a hat
And carried a brief case
He’d walk from one crack
In the sidewalk
A certain precise number
Of steps
To another crack in
The sidewalk
Where he’d turn
With a kind of dramatic
Flair
And repeat his journey
Of maybe 50 steps
Over and over
“Is he there?”
My partner would ask
And looking down
I’d laugh and
Tell her, “yeah,”
He’s doing his
Thing”
But she wouldn’t laugh
And then it wasn’t
funny
How hour after hour
He’d walk
Back and forth
On the south side
Of the sidewalk of
Warren Street

*

One night
My partner
Shook me awake
She was sitting up
In my sleeping loft
Pointing out at the wall
By the window
“Do you see it?”
she asked me
“You see it, right?”
Bleary eyed I looked
I thought it would
Be a mouse but
Instead I saw
A cloud
Floating
A greenish cloud
Or mist in the room
At a level with the
Loft
It was moving
Slowly through the air
Tell me you see it,”
She said.
“I see it,” I
told her
“What do you see?”
“Jesus . . . it’s like
a cloud or something,’ I
whispered
We watched it
For a time
Holding each other
Until we didn’t see
It anymore
Then she said
“Don’t forget that, don’t
forget that we really
saw it, OK?”
“OK,” I said, “I won’t
forget”
“Promise?”
“Yes,” I told her,
“I promise”

***

Dan Hubbs is a a librarian, a writer, and an old time style banjo player in Saratoga Springs, NY.  You can hear some banjo pieces here:

soundcloud.com/drybonesband-919982766

 

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