photo of gargoyle

Two Poems by Daniel Shkolnik

Barcelona Sketch

Barcelona is grandfather bohemia, a scroll of endless graffiti, a town of lesbians. Sidewalks are covered with busking Rastafarians and street-performing soccer kings. A city of lisps, a city of seagulls, a museum of hemp, a museum of erotica, where wandering Mexicans with six packs say, “Cervezas? Un euro. One euro.” Where nudity has only recently been made illegal, and cuddling on fountain lips will never be. A place of fat bells and judging gargoyles, of bar after bar after bar choked with Europeans and out-of-place Russians. It’s a city of side streets lit by second-hand light. A city where senile castles have lost their way and stand mumbling in seedy allies. City of melting architecture. City of the rainbow salamander: the only place where angels rock bassoons or where taxi fares are worth the cab’s weight in gold. Headless manikins critique the taste of window shoppers. Mammoth cargo ships pass whole beaches of tanning nipples.

Battle of Lights

A large lever is clamped into place and a surge defibrillates the park – wires crackle and whine, bulbs light like dominoes along the boulevard, the Ferris wheel begins to yawn, and all utility poles bend toward the island from the strain: New York trains arrive, park tickets are sold – checked – dropped – stepped on, and people enter a greater city held up by cardboard, topped with onion domes, dipped in lights, where there are no naked faces and all eyes are framed with shimmers, feathers, beads of sweat, where if you pick the right mask you can find anything – true love if you’d like – misery if you wanted; at right: blind piano, big bass, fat sax, cymbals, and shiny trumpet jazz together on a stage meant for a barbershop quartet – at left: pink, green, orange cigarette smoke licks at a negro doing the Charleston in a dry-palm skirt, but not far from where the Italian sells hotdogs there’s a funhouse filled with liquid mirrors that you stumble out of and into a boy carrying a tray of carnival sparklers – fireworks shoot up like jacket zippers, drag your eyes out of your skull, and explode above the circus tents, heating them green; the tents call you over with painted faces and laughing elephants – you go to them for fun – but others call you with a woman’s red fingernail and darkness that smells like rat poison – you go in them out of fear – where a man eaten by shadows asks: “Something strange for you tonight?”; you wake up in a place called “The Watering Hole” where a gypsy with a jealous earring serves a man in a metallic mask, a place that (as the night gets deep) becomes wild with midnight fauna: tribal gorillas scratch themselves and sniff under skirts, an elephant hunches over the bar and drinks out of his snout, packs of hyenas dressed in heels circle often, and vultures smoke on barstools scanning for the weakest cubs, while the flappers, flappers wearing rare birds perch on tabletops flaring feathers, squawking squalor, turning the room bestial until it begins to spin, and the sickness in your stomach begins to spin, and you stumble spinning to the door, but the spin is out all over the street: everywhere masked men chase masqueraded women – everyone forgetting which mask they’d come with, not caring which will take them home – the jazz men can’t hear their rhythm and throw up clashing solos, the palm tree dancer is lost somewhere in the smoke, the boy with the sparklers has run off with your change; rifle fire pops like champagne, the darkness is fought-off with fireworks, people have died of laughter in the streets, but who against what is unclear; the fighting rages all through Mardi Gras and- when morning hurries to the scene – everyone has won and
lost something incredibly important.

Daniel Shkolnik is from Boston, Massachusetts, and currently pursues a degree in sociology at Yale University. Daniel mixes his academic background with his fiction and aims to create socially conscious stories while playfully bending the rules of reality. Besides writing he enjoys breakdancing, mural-painting, blues piano, and tennis. Daniel is also part of the spoken word collective, Teeth. His work has appeared in Apparent Magnitude, Escarpe, The Blue Pencil, the fiction anthology Art, Lux, et Veritas, and in 2011 he was awarded the William H. Lincoln Medal for writing. Feel free to contact him by email at daniel.lev.shkolnik@gmail.com.

Lead image“Gargoyle 1” (via Flickr user Son of Groucho)