Two Poems • William Greenway

Your Alley

It’s right up it, some people
say, and I imagine rats
scurrying beneath yellow
arc lights, winos dozing,
their backs against brick,
haggard youths shooting up
in the shadows by disheveled
trash cans waiting to be
strewn by the bumpers of perps
pursued by the Crown Victorias
of cops with sawed-offs,
and drop-guns braceleted
around their fat calves,
the numbers filed off like
the letters of a poem
no one will be able to identify
or remember.


Room at the Inn

It’s 10 pm, and we’d just be getting home from Ainie and Unkie’s, him with his big cigar, Uncle Harold, legs crossed, bored, smoking incessantly, Aunt Evelyn with her Betty Boop lipsticked lips.

Pimento cheese sandwich on white bread with potato chips and a ribbed bottle of Coke, then Rich’s coconut cake (the best on earth, ever), then us kids distributing presents from under the angel-haired tree, always socks wrapped in a ball from Ainie, for which we thanked her profusely, and for which we were welcomed, diffident and probably ashamed because that’s all she could afford.

Buzz-cut cousins Jerry and Buddy smoking cigars like their granddad, their gorgeous wives coiffed and finger-lacquered, all in that tiny house in south Atlanta, the drive home under hard stars and red, green, and blue Christmas lights blurring the windows.

Now, in Portland fifty years later, on my sister’s last Christmas Eve, I try to bring in some carols on the radio of the rental car, knowing there won’t be any Santa in the morning, only a bottle of Wild Turkey in the motel room before I drift off to sleep dreaming of the curvaceous Coke bottle, the red-nailed virgin, the incense of cigars, and those wise men, bringing booties.


William Greenway's tenth collection, Everywhere at Once, won the Poetry Book of the Year Award from the Ohio Library Association, as did his eighth collection Ascending Order. His work has appeared in
Poetry, American Poetry Review, Southern Review, Georgia Review, Missouri Review, Southern Poetry Review, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, and Shenandoah. He's the Distinguished Professor of English at Youngstown State University.