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PEOPLE OF NEW YORK by Sally Ball

I know you are dying
as always, even you big ones
from Queens, or from Nyack,
and I’m in the habit
of checking the clock,
midnight again. Again no
phone call, no lungs
expanding and contracting

I know you are dying
as always, even you big ones
from Queens, or from Nyack,
and I’m in the habit
of checking the clock,
midnight again. Again no
phone call, no lungs
expanding and contracting
with some machine
for a brain while the hospital
empties and a family consents
and either in person or over the phone
offers up the life left
in the life that is leaving them.

My father asleep in his bed.

People of New York
New Jersey Connecticut:
I was born there, and he was,
and we lived there and married
and drove to the sea.

They can come from as far
as South Carolina; the doctors
say motorcycle season
is often a good time of year.

Thank you, you bikers.
Be careful, be
careful—

We’re eighteen months into
the eighteen-month window.
They’re dying, I know it,
B+ tall guys
whose lungs vanish
into a furnace, into the ground.

People of New York:
I wish you long lives.
I have no sense of coming
before you, but I know
you are dying as always.
Can you please check the box—
through the DMV,
through the registries?
Have you said, Make me useful,
if the time comes? Dear?

 

Listen to Sally Ball’s reading of “People of New York” below…

 

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About Sally Ball

Sally Ball
Sally Ball is the author of Wreck Me (2013) and Annus Mirabilis (2005), both from Barrow Street Press. She is an assistant professor of English at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ, and her poems have appeared in the American Poetry Review, Harvard Review, Yale Review, and online at The Awl, Narrative and Slate.