South Beach Daze

South Beach before the hurricane

was an old man in oversize shorts

that dangled below his knees

and protruded an obscene wangle

when he walked.

A Brooklyn or Queens refugee

with a scent of ovens baked in.

He smelled of bagels after breakfast,

Wolfie’s cheese cake in the afternoon,

cholent for an observant dinner

followed by a nice walk down Collins

delighting in the acrid smell of

sea salt, sand crabs, seaweed

and the waft aroma of exploded jellyfish

popped by impish children

with sea grape batons.

South Beach was a prattling old Yenta

in a one piece swimsuit with

peacocks, zebras, vibrant

schools of parrot fish swimming in the coral,

and for a hint of the exodus that every

elderly Jew needs to wear and carry

with them a looming pyramid

with a Sphinx stamped on the back

to distract from the black

tattoo numbers on the wrist.

They would meet on the return,

each breaking from their clique,

joyfully begrudging a welcome peck

still holding hands like decades before

when they felt they had a true home,

walking just a little block further beyond

the screaming neon Art Deco haze,

settling in to eat leftovers, a TV dinner

and watch the glowing embers

of Sullivan, Godfrey, Jackie Gleason

knowing how sweet it all is.

South Beach was a parking lot at night

cracked, weedy, seedy, fading painted lines

erased by lonely cars backing to the wall,

headlights blinking one for yes, two for no,

a forbidden, hidden, tormented love call.

Down the road the Fountainbleau

swayed to the rhythm of cerulean congas,

a swarming taking over, a buyout with

million dollar conversion dreams financed

with white powder and rolled hundreds,

and lots of leverage muchacho, so

the tourist will spend and come and cum.

The headlights still blink night love songs

but with better accessories and stylings.

The greedy can wait for old Jews to die.

After the hurricane South Beach,

became SoBe, as the locals,

the bankers, the flippant rich like

to call it and chant it as the tourists

money the streets in a conga line

so dense that it will start a riot

if someone errantly blinks twice.

The neon is the attraction and lure,

even though it really is the

after smell of a corpse.

Every one knows the old Everglades legend,

that lingers like a skunk ape arm

caught in an airboat propeller, about

never messing with an alligator

seeking refuge under a car after a storm.

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