Poking through the cluttered stalls of a farmers’ market
I saw the lp’s dirty jacket, fraying at the sides,
The dog-eared, warped cardboard
Dissolving to a faded dingy white.
My hands—a careful archaeologist,
Unearthing the record from thirty years of dirt,
The vinyl splashed with mud and careless fingerprints.
I haggled the price,
Fumbled for cash,
Ran home in the rain, 
Fueled by alcohol and amphetamines,
Hiding the record under the grease-stained jacket.

Alone in the basement I stared at the cover—
Subway station grime and 
Song titles swimming in translucent brightness:
Songs about hookers, heroin, and God.
If that were all they wanted to say, 
I wouldn’t be mystified, slackjawed, alive,
But it was the song of the city—
Shy kids with radios, twisting the dials,
Their ears just hearing on the edge of perception
Some mystery about to be unfolded.

It’s the city’s gospel they sang at me—
Not just piss and sado-masochism,
But an ambition, a wanting, a gnawing
You find at the back of your head
When your feet hit that asphalt
And take off running
Down alleyways under streetlights through dark nights
Unsure whether that rush
Is from fear or exhilaration

I never slept that night,
The big black disc spinning its infinity—
World-weary, the city’s gospel,
Fighting my small horizon
Ringed by the Blue Mountains,
Possessed and left bare.

First published in The Eclectic, Fall 1998.

Mary Jones © 2003