4 Poems by Eddie Vega @VegaWire

Punk Noir Magazine

Crystal Meth

Propping my mother by the elbow,

I enter the bodega on the corner

Of 57th Street & Fourth.

She just needs a seltzer 

To combat the nausea 

From the cancer treatment

She’s getting at Brooklyn Hospital;

It won’t work, but she believes it will

And I’m too beaten up to argue.

In comes Crystal who ran track in high school

And sang in my ear sometimes between practice

Because I loved a particular song she sang with perfect pitch

That calmed my nerves when the writing did not go well

And I was her artist friend who posed no threat, 

Like surprising her with a kiss.

She is 21 now but looks as old as my mother:

Sunken cheeks, pale skin with dark blotches,

Missing teeth, stooped shoulders,

Though the shock of blonde hair still dazzled

Like the gold metallic stars teachers stick

To the corners of select student papers

Or the flashbulb celebration of winning finish lines.

She’s an image from a corrupted memory drive,

A scratched music file, an overwritten face.

But she gasps, Eddie?

And I remember all of her:

The smooth skin, the cool blue eyes.

The pop of starter guns,

The ribbons and medals,

The tight running shorts,

The perfect song.

Love does that.

And I introduce her to my mother,

Who smiles as if she just met the pope,

But later as we walk home, asks:

Which of us do you think will die first?

I will, I reply.

But I was wrong.

Attending a Poetry Reading Drunk

There are more empty seats than words

At the reading I attend after three doubles, 

And a fourth in my pocket, sipping between

The stanzas of poets reciting monologues in cadence,

Like actors who have memorized lines

They don’t care to understand.

But I am drunk and do not care

Except about the redhead in the third row

To my right surrounded by lots of space.

She should be surrounded by suitors with cameras,

Taking pictures each time she stirs, 

The slight up motion of her chin to catch a word,

The thick brambles of scarlet hair

That fall in accidental braids

Over her forehead whenever she nods 

Into a notebook to write something.

And I wonder if she is waiting her turn at the mic 

(She is not)

And if she is as alone as she appears 

(She is)

And if she will be horrified if I chat her up later

(I will never know). 

And I moan, warily, I moan

And empty the flask

To liquefy the moment, 

To drown its sharp cries,

To bring myself away from her

And back into my own head

Where there is safety, and sometimes a poem.

A Girl at the Airport

As I made my way around impassive crowds,

In Sunday best or casual travel 

Or uniforms with gun belts—ghosts

All of them, all of them—they could not 

See that I knew their most secret names:

The boyfriend who wiped himself 

With my panties and tossed the thing

Across the bed where I’d been reading theory 

Before he arrived to work off his day’s pain

On my body (then he left, just like that).

The mother who dropped cigarette ash

Into the mix of my birthday cake 

Because the ashtray was in another room

And she had just cleaned the sink

And later I ate the burnt thing in fear of what would 

Happen if I didn’t while she stared at me 

In that heroin half-sleep of hers

Just before the doors came down

And the neighbors took her pulse

And the sirens wailed her away.

The teacher who told me I had a gift

For words but was taken out in cuffs

When her own words got found

On the phones of several boys on the swim team,

And her face was in a trance

Until she passed me under the school exit sign

And she had no hands to wipe the tears

That rushed her face like burst sugar water catheters.

Now you are here, all of you, bled corpses,

Hazy apparitions, talking, talking as if there was nothing

To talk about except where the bathroom is,

Next to Gate 28thank you.

And there are more and more of you…

And I tell the boyfriend, why’d you leave me?

Was there no more pain in your life?

And I tell the mother, I’m hungry Moma,

More rice please… Where’d you go? Where’d you go?

And I tell the teacher with skin of Flemish wheat

And blouse of hospital wipes, words cannot absorb tears

But sometimes they can prevent them… So you said!

Why you so loud? Why you all so loud?

And stop crowding on me!

And who are you to tell me to calm down?

You calm down! 

And put that gun down before I chew it off!

What’s wrong with you?

Close Dance with the Lead Actress at the Cast Party

The lead actress whose furnace eyes

Lit the first eight rows that night

And cast shadows on the rest, 

Now locks her hips to mine,

In and out, Jamaican wine style,

And blows humid words in my ear

That mean I don’t know what, 

But they are attentive and warm.

I whisper back, Oh, Dominique.

Then she peers at me in a way that

Burns the first three layers of skin 

From my face and I am once again 

The stagehand who loaded her prop gun,

The usher who showed her friends to their seats,

The sound tech who rang a buzzer offstage, 

Her cue to pick up a pretend phone

And moan: Bon soi… Zees ees Dominique.

Dominique, Dominique, Dominique

Cue the next sound! A shot! A scream!

Lights out. Intermission.

What is my name? she demands. My name?

The name floated in the glass

Of imported amnesia that I had emptied

Into my brain…

And I thought of the ancient Hebrew priests

And their fear of the Holy Name revealed on Sinai,

And replied, Your name is too beautiful to utter

Save once a year on the holiest of days. 

She repeats, What is my name!

And now I’m as silent as Zechariah

Before the angel in the Baptist temple

And just as afraid. 

And now an usher hands me the playbill

With the cast names and points to hers at the top,

But she’s now grinding with the playwright,

Then the director, then the romantic lead,

Whom she leads by the belt behind red velvet curtains.

A year away, I repeat the name as if memorizing a script:

A name too beautiful to utter save once a year,

Or a thousand times in a play

Of reflection and regret.

Eddie Vega is a Cuban-born writer, editor, English teacher, and amateur actor who holds degrees in literature, writing, and journalism from Columbia University and Brooklyn College (CUNY).

His news writing has appeared in Washington Post, T.V. Guide, Backstage Magazine, Billboard Magazine, The Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, Austin-American Statesman, and his creative writing in Parnassus: Poetry in Review, Little Havana Blues, Brooklyn Review, River Styx, Punk Noir Magazine, and Pearson’s middle school English textbook, My Perspectives.

His seafaring novel, Awake Now, Sailor and book of poetry, Translating Grandfather’s House and Other Poems, Puntos and Décimas, are available on Amazon, as well as several issues of Noir Nation: International Crime Fiction, a magazine he has been publishing since 2011.