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.