Extortionate Living

Fire station No. 57 is flecked and scratched
looked at through the grime crusted window
greasy child fingers have left their prints
much like the green sprayed “Aves”
on the fluted lamp post
a criss-crossy zig-zaggy
maze of tags – red, black and brown
mark the Los Angeles Times paper dispenser
it takes three quarters
one at a time for the box to open
and disgorge its information
at its feet
the yellow fireplug sits vigilant
awaiting its day in the spray and flames
as cars go by, faces queued up in the bus
one is queen Elizabeth
high ruff collar
a blaze of curls and too much blusher
she slides her finger slow
across her throat
across the wide six-lane boulevard
two American flags hang limp
as do listless palm tops, fronds still
in the motionless morning air
only low branches are disturbed
by fleeting automotive turbulence

This filthy pane of glass
is as dull as TV
pointless determinations
people moved by breezes
by ancient forces in fuel tanks
some blow too inside the diner
they eat eggs and toast
take their morning drink
some have friends
come and go in pairs
two by two down the line
ordering their bacon and hash
sitting and telling hushed tales
of their lives
speaking of children, of sex and electric bills
the high cost of living these days
to hear it all said
the fees are extortionate
but the product is cheap

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