Jane Bowles
By Mary Shanley

We meet in a chamber
deep within the recesses
of a milieu encompassing
centuries of souls exotique.

I recognize your scent,
Casbah, 1949.

Shoot a glance
double take
fatal charmer of snakes
within my skin
ready to shed again,
I find you irresistible.

By Mary Shanley

Alexander sits on a milk crate
outside the Chase bank,
on the corner of seventh avenue
and fourteenth street.
The scaffolding outside the bank
gives his sagging bones a frame
to lean on, while he pleads for money,
His body drenched in sweat.

When a passerby drops money
in his dunkin donuts cup, he looks
up slightly, with a shy smile and his
head drops into whatever abyss
that may be occupying his mind.
When I ask him how he is, he stares
at me, shrugs his shoulders and tightens
his face, as if to hold back tears.

The grief accompanying the sight
of his defeated life is soul numbing.
I have an affection for Alexander,
whose body slumps sideways,
as you gaze downward; most likely
to avoid meeting the glance of those
who have not met such an unfortunate fate.

Then came to day the workers took the
scaffolding down. “My house!” you said,
panicked. ‘Where am I going to go?”
And then you were gone, disappeared
as if you’d never been there.

When I first met Joni
By Mary Shanley

When I first met Joni in early
2015, she had collected
153 smooth, black stones.
One stone for every black
man killed by the police.

The last time I saw Joni,
The following year, it was
one week before Christmas.
She had three canvas bags,
that held 863 smooth, black

I have never known anyone
executed by the police; but,
every time there is a report
of a cop killing an unarmed
black boy, my heart joins
the well of sorrow; the place
where all broken hearts go
to mourn.

Choke Talk
By Mary Shanley

Frankie smokes on the fly
outside the Duane Reade store,
where she works as a cashier.
Every break and lunch hour,
Frankie pulls on a Camel
non-filter; her head lowered,
as if shame accompanied
every inhale.

I tried to figure Frankie’s age.
with her slight black figure
and defeat etched into the lines
on her face, Frankie looks older
than language.

When I stop for a quick, “Hello,”
Frankie attempts to speak. She
barely has enough oxygen to choke
out a, “Hello.” Like a balloon losing
air, now I see Frankie, now I don’t;
as she fades in full sight.

For Paul Bowles
By Mary Shanley

Open my hardened heart
and if I resist, place a merciful kiss
on my lips before banishing me
to the rebel compound, where I
crouch, smoking kif, staring
unflinchingly into my fate,
with a heart both fiery and fair.

(a heart broken
embraces chaos.
nothing to determine,
nothing to name.)

The countenance of kindhearted
angels follow you from behind
every face you ever haunted;
bringing skin to spirit and blood
to veins.

You never know
how great
the ordinary.

Mary Shanley is a poet/writer who lives in NYC. Four of her books have been published: Hobo Code Poems by Vox Pop Press, Mott Street Stories and Las Vegas Stories, Things They Left Behind and Poems for Faces by Sidestreet Press. Her work has appeared in Mr. Bellers’s Neighborhood, Blue Lake Review, Logos Journal, Hobo Camp Review, StepAway Magazine, Anak Sastra Journal, Shangra-la Magazine, Tell Us A Story, Foliate Oak Literary Journal, Flagler Review, Garbanzo, Edge, Underground Voices, Pangolin Review, Poetry Super Highway, Mobius, Visitant Literary Journal, Modern Literature Journal, Blaze Vox, Metaworker, Literary Heist, Indicia, Ginosko Literary Journal, Poydras Review and Tahoe Writer’s Conference. She was a featured Poet on WBAI Radio, NYC and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.