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Promoting Self-Esteem

Dresden Room, Los Angeles

For A.

Elayne’s shoulders are this night’s dark
moon’s retinal curve, her large hair piggyback;

she kneads piano keys, sings to her fingers. Marty,
tucked around his bass in polyester (kimono), is side-

kick to his frozen, leapt cowlick of lounge-
lizard toupee. Oh dark night. My friend and I seek

protection from your dismal mallet. Huddled
beneath crushed-berry lights with a Sidecar

and a Cosmopolitan and one burger in a booth
not quite round, but round enough—we are two brushed,

rouged maids shouldered, covered, keeping them
out. My friend’s eyes are quivering

droplets of Blue Skyy. She is discouraged:
the bartenders are slurry grandfathers and those

youths in front dressed in the frayed
uniform of the trendy—GI Joe bodies in second-

hand wheels, spokes poking, bald or shaggy
above their beer (Budweiser is “back”),

bleached teeth, leading male cheekbones checked
by the pleather miniskirted mired in a standing room

only crowd—how they frighten us (poets locked
in private rooms—I am nobody—who are you—). When


my friend insists there is no one, I half believe her
and signal for another round as Elayne sings:

she’s got a ticket to ride, in her small pet
voice and my friend confesses: I. Am. Ugly.


Young woman! Old Maid. Spinster. Rebel
in your upstairs room, smog fringing your only window,


spyglass to the smothering metropolis, parents prowling
the dim first floor, fresh cocktails and debts between them,

cats stretched on shabby sills, on your lap while you in-
cubate (blocked), as your bewitching lady rises,

elegant Californian, her touch of summer, the surprises
for those who say they know you—there is nothing for you

here. Marty, Elayne, bent, concocting—they conspire: the cheek-
bones, the dismal night.

They sing: Love was too plebian
They sing: My kind of town

This is your town. This is your town. And there is
nothing for you here—no one—but for





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