You really oughtn’t write a poem about
Mr. Dennehy’s without a nip
out back. You’d love the patio, really.
Frankie doesn’t work there anymore
since his band booked real money up north.

A yellow cab’ll whip you down 7th
South without so much as a customary
finger toward our back deck. Fresh awning
and endless pitchers now, competitive brunch.
But you’re already in Soho, now the bridge.

Soon Brooklyn down Atlantic where pubs dry up
like dull lime slices left on crumpled napkins.
But remember Dennehy’s — you drank here once
before the burdens sailed you further up
the island. Savor that black stout in memory.

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On the 17th, legions of drunk
fireman lined Second Avenue
manning curbside posts outside the pubs,
cigarettes cherries red as sidewalk
hydrants. One, Bill, wore a long mug, mushed
by wind and spotted like a crimson
Dalmatian. He’s the one who won’t go down
the pole, they told me. Elbow surgery.

Doesn’t seem to bug him raising fingers
to lips, plunking Pall Malls like a needle
to vinyl. Back near Ryan’s Daughter’s pool table,
the shanties rise up a deafening wave
of green and white noise. Roof collapse in
’03 caved in his drum anyway. Not
thinking about it much these days with Kel
across the river in dorms with detectors
up to spec (he checked). She plays piano
and sings so beautifully when she wants.

A loudness he might’ve caught otherwise,
then he’s on his back. Left arm bent at
the damn elbow again. No lasting damage,
they told me, but the bike messenger cranked
his ride. Just then, a tiny squeal lingers
in air from Mrs. Sullivan’s pekingese,
two blocks over, above Slayton Cleaners.
How does he hear it?

Passing by Mr. Dennehy’s — the pub
where Frankie from junior high, who stole my first-
ever girlfriend, Lizzie, because he was older
by a year and had cool blond streaks in
his dark Italian hair, works now — and smiling
into the sunshine. My first real heartbreak,
and now we three live here, in New York, ruthless
more than the halls of middle school among
the jeers and mild scuffles by the lockers,
gym-humiliation, scrawny-armed
casual viciousness. Me, Frankie, and Lizzie
all sang in the seventh-grade musical.
He tends bar now. She’s in fashion.
I’m just walking by the pub, grinning.