The Beat Poets of New York City

(Note: Contains Strong Language)

You made it sound enchanting; 
All those beautiful words 
Scattered like stars throughout you books. 
I wondered around you cold water flats,
Climbed with you, up the graf encrusted stairs, to the top floor, 
Like possums climbing trees to reach the moon. 
Your fourth floor magical hideaway from the city, 
Incessantly grumbling to itself below. 
I warmed my hands a little over the gas stove, 
Read by candle light, 
The candles shoved in cheap wine bottles,
Wrapped myself in blankets,
Like a hunting warrior, to keep out the cold,
The cold from broken windows,
Taped over with newspapers from someone else's bin.

This life was so magical to me,
In my the cheap suburb, aged thirteen.
Having lived these moments in real life now,
Moments that fell between the good times,
Like cracks in the concrete,
I can assure you there is no romance in the streets.

I never made it to New York.
A friend once ventured,
On credit card, for three weeks.
Had the time of her life,
Didn't begrudge that it took
Two years minimum wage to settle the debt.
But she said it was nothing like 
Leonard Cohan's 'Songs from a Room,'
And CBGB's had already shut,
Had become a bank,
And she said everything was in colour,
Not in black and white like our coffee table books.
She said she danced and danced and danced,
Forgot all about the tenements she had gone out to see,
Because you don't have to travel to see the bad part of town,
The forgotten worlds,
You just need to stumble somehow,
And you find the cracks in the footpath along the street,
Growing like mushrooms,
Never getting fixed,
Slum landlords with hammers and evil grins,
Pawnshops instead of florists,
Bookies, bottle-o's and messy vandalism.

I know you only wrote about the lack of hot water
Hoping the royalty check would set you free,
Letting you settle down in an unbroken street,
And I don't blame you one bit.
I know that having no hot water in winter is shit.

When we were fifteen,
We washed dishes to pay the rent,
Thought we were George Orwell 'Down and Out in Paris and London.'
We didn't know how to turn on the old gas cooker,
Our girls didn't either,
We used the neighbour's microwave across the street.
Had no furniture,
But built a mini-ramp in the living room,
Plundered from off-cuts we had found in the street.
We didn't care about the broken toilet,
Went to the back yard,
Or used the shopping centre down the street.
We removed the stairs and used to climb up to get in,
Turned it into a tree house,
Lowering the ladder to the visitors we wanted.
Lowering a bucket to the landlord with the rent in.
He didn't care either.
And I cannot remember not smiling.

But coming full circle,
Turning forty,
After years living in domestic bliss,
Falling suddenly,
To find myself in a cheap flat,
In a cheap part of town,
With a broken stove,
Broken windows,
Stains on the carpet like a TV murder scene,
And a slum landlord much younger than me.
It wasn't fun anymore.
It was just proper shit.
And I kept asking myself,
"How the f**k did it come to this?"

By Mikael

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