She was maybe 19 and had a swollen
eye lid that suggested a right cross late
at night, broken bottles, arguments,
disfiguring confrontations that always ended up
In profile, she looked worse, strung out
downtown with a card under her face
that said Albany Police Department.
Her seven sisters in crime were more
bummed out than she was: half dead
in their middle teens, bags sagging
under their eyes, skin popping tattoos.
Off screen you could see them selling
their souls, if they ever had one,
for a used needle, a six pack of beer
and a pack of unfiltered cigarettes.
They would have been better off pregnant
than where they were now, screaming
their heads off, crawling walls, fingernails
broken down to the flesh almost to the bone,
bleeding cold turkeys in a place
where no one cared.
I said:”I don’t know any of them and
didn’t want to.”
But I knew them all.
The cop that asked, folded up his stuff
chugged his second Lite beer and said:
“Just thought I’d ask, you never know
what you can find out at closing time
in a neighborhood bar.”
At 4AM you never know.