i remember those boys now
as a constellation of pathologies
of hang-ups and hangers-on each
more bitterly amazing than the last
they congregate as if for the sunset prayer but
not in the insulated carpeted vaulted rooms of the
corner mosque–
but on street corners, less proper but almost as silent
just as claimant.
always trying to extend the reaches of their dominion
as if the rooms and halls of their mothers’ houses
and their sisters’ bodies weren’t enough already.

The grocer sits at the end of this promenade
this gauntlet of male psychologies i
walk through only at night–

the streets in these parts are narrow, daytime
clogged with overflowing racks of fruit for sale
slit messily open by some discerning inspector’s
pressing palms, searching too hard for impurities
creating their own in the flesh, in turn
at dusk, replaced with a gaggle of arms and legs
and more phantom limbs of cigarette smoke
reaching out to brush any woman that passes by–
with intention,
to end up in the feminine space of silence
between the bottles of curry paste and the bags
of ground grains graduating in size
silence, but not safety. those boys would know it
if they ever took the time to accidentally
wipe their eyes after handling chili powder.
close to shuttering time, always. i stand by while
the sputtering neon signs are coaxed into slumber
by the night-shift boy who squints as he gets close
who looks prophetic in their dusted-over green glow. he
doesn’t let me take the store from open to off. he says because
the signs shock. you must know how to touch them,
and where.

so i roll a metal can of watery exotica between my palms
and wait.