All In on Coney Island, Circa 1999

Walking the boardwalk 
with back beat, 
feet hitting arpeggios 
on the two and four 
until sunset bombs
heavy chords that hold 
their own in air check
tempo, thick over radios 
across three time zones.

I blow counterpoint 
to street people 
paper bagging it
on benches, cursing
pigeons for cutting them out
on the down beat
as though they were front line,
horns for beaks, breaking
down a broken melody
with wings. I blow
counterpoint to lovers
watching the sky change 
color, jive-ing each other
but wanting to believe 
it's the real thing, not 
a moldy fig.

I blow passing tone
until I stagger to the final 
Coney Island solo 
after midnight, breathless
as the inner voice beats 
between whole tones,
sends night shedding,
finally alone at daybreak.


To Find a Coffee Shop

In Philly, wish I was a city
girl you know fool when your face
plasters the lined sky, neck twists
to yell fuck you at the cell phone,
catch robin tracks cemented
in last spring where shiny trash
trades slimy worms for food chain status quo.

Fat Italian cobbler in Bella Vista stops me
before his shop. “You got good eyes?
Can you thread this needle?” I shrug,
hand back a finished task.
“Beautiful!” he crows, “Thank you”
and cackles his way inside.

Irises shift to watch BMX packs
flood one square block between stoplights.
Seventeen eighties brick row houses
wear glass faces mosaicked into
colonial soul food
for Queen Village mirror pieces
shaped like snake boys
or ceramic bowl cornices around
second story windows.

My toes busk to solve the Quince Street
riddle of alleys older than their gardens,
feeding them secrets masked in murals
that travel where my feet cannot,
convert hip-hop graffiti artists
to public works painters, just pushing
them deeper into ghetto’s throat.

Look beneath Philly to find
Delphi, a rubble-born oracle
chanting from smoke towers.


Lisa Masé has been writing poetry since childhood. She teaches poetry workshops for Vermont’s Poem City events, co-facilitates a writing group, and has translated the poetry of writers from Italy, France, and the Dominican Republic. Her poems have been published by Open Journal of Arts and Letters, Wander Lost, the Long Island Review, 3 Elements, Zingara Review, River and South, and Silver Needle Press among others.