City Poems

By Danielle Lanzet

The Jane Hotel

You are a mother – but not right now – not tomorrow. Scent of lemon and sage,
skin wet from summer humidity beneath sheer Italian cotton and my freckled torso.
Rolling on your side, you reach for cigarette and match, a chemical cocktail of
sulfur dioxide and sex spoils the West Side Highway. Your face white as the ceiling,
awaiting daylight and warmth. Empty champagne flute as your ashtray, I question
your timing and decorum. Wash you off at 3 a.m. with a shower, but you are there –
under the chrome Delta rain can – smirking like George W. on PBS. Shrieking bicycle bells
and Courtney Love, I starfished on a hotel bed, naked, and Rusty, a cocker spaniel,
sleeping near the built-in bookcase. Your cigarette ash in the glass, pungent
as the day you first said hello. I said goodbye before the elevator hit the lobby.

Danielle Lanzet


From Houston Street, Left Turn On Elm

Behind the wheel of a midnight 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible, I dreamt in black &
white of automatic toasters burning on a lush grassy knoll, but JFK isn’t there, & soon enough,
neither am I. Playing sidewalk chicken with Bridgette Bardot, or maybe her doppelgänger,
as firefighters extinguish burnt waffles & teased cherry hair, I count myself luckier than Kennedy –
Joe, Jack, Bobby – oh wait, Rosie & John John too. Use the payphone on NE corner but signal is dead,
dum dum, recycled sound heard by the hipster with red ribbed condom-like beanie – he’s extra thin &
probably super sensitive too. Nod in his direction in acknowledgment of this shared moment
but I still feel invisibly present, skull blown off, identifiable only by Texan twang & bourbon breath.
I dreamt in black & white, Kodak Tri-X Reversal Film 16 millimeter, camerawork shoddier than
JFK’s moral principles, but we’re facing a moral crisis, Boehner & Bachmann, government shutdown,
& we can’t stop. It’s November & standing inside this election booth, I’m worse than JFK, platform of
bait, hook, release, repeat. Hand on lever of this mint-green like refrigerator, I abstain, from choosing you.

Danielle Lanzet


Café Minerva

Delicious heat from the copper espresso machine lingers for the briefest eternity
on the tongue, a pleasant acidity, startling like a Dizzy Gillespie trumpet solo.
I suffocate, pungent scent of citrus and dirt, but I remember that the West Village air
is rich, and reach for my father’s worn copy of The Prophet. Outside, on the street,
an amorphous figure laughs, grimacing, telling some passionless tale of a stranger
coming to town or leaving on holiday; I am positive there is an epic journey.
Caffeine, swirling in the base, settles into the circular depression, now mocha stained.
All I can hear is lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub, heart beating rapidly, near tachycardia,
but then, steadily, contracting and relaxing. “Could I get a glass of water please?”
At least fifty percent of these people’s diet consists of light cigarettes and enemas,
and no, your most recent Milan runway show does not interest me, nor does your
bulimic bald boyfriend bassist in a boy band. Tell me now—I look too innocent.

Danielle Lanzet


Lanzet headshotDanielle Lanzet reads for a living at Chris Calhoun Agency. She attended Colgate University, where she studied poetry with Peter Balakian, and later attended the Columbia Publishing Course. She can be found, being an “intellectual hooligan,” somewhere below 14th Street where the martinis are cold and the espresso is hot.

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