From Crossing Bedford Avenue by Colin Dodds


—for Harry Essex

is the only way to comprehend some things

Your body was found Tuesday off Bedford Avenue
It was no surprise
It was sooner or later

The prophesies all end in apologies and Bedford Avenue
wins a ghost to malinger among skateboarding financiers
food fetishists, cultural careerists, the falsely disheveled
heirs to deepening trouble kissing the ass of an angry algorithm—
all the feckless little fucks too craven to get themselves killed

Hate is the only language

Oh friend
and miserable shade who stole my friend
This will admit no contradiction
I love you and hate
you who has taken you from me

Oh friend playing basketball at three am on summer nights
beside the Aztec ruin of McCarren Pool
Wandering rubbled East River piers
Watching Orson Welles’ The Trial all rainy afternoon
before a night of big beers and brave young women
at Rosemary’s

Oh friend who did what no one else did or would
Drawing the sephirothic tree with kielbasa slices in a pan
Reenacting Who’s On First with your pet turtle
Rubbing vomit into cheap landlord carpet
while every surface clicked open onto busy infinity
Reeling around that tiny apartment
like it was a sacred grove roaring out Finnegan’s Wake

And now you’ve gone and followed the gone
Gone the long afternoons of unhindered speculation
Gone the Avenue A cafe with a bathtub full of broken computers
Gone the wobbly tables bracketed by the wild-eyed dispossessed and messianic,
with every mystery school cracked open just in time for everyone to be totally on their own
Gone the dense dirty laissez-faire summer streets dotted with cheap-drink
elephant graveyards
Gone the mystical atheists scratching at the edges of a locked room
Gone the hippie holdouts techno-anarchists misanthropes with no natural or
spiritual homes
Gone the early evenings when visits to the record store became visits to the liquor
Gone the sunken sofas of self-proclaimed prophets and scavenging squatters
identically incensed and grasping for a quantum loophole or a historical-dialectic excuse,
invoking Gurdjieff Tesla and Wilhelm Reich to bludgeon or just comprehend their own
neglect and isolation
All of them feeding but not growing, fermenting into something else
The beer of the stars you said
Time’s truants, Hart Crane might’ve called them
Citizens of the universe

You made a break
to the clear light the Coors Light
to your decade-long public suicide on Bedford Avenue
dim now like a stale wound


In a heat wave, you crossed Bedford Avenue
a final time asking beer money from street vendors
And on North Sixth Street beside a thrice-failed café
with nowhere to retire to,
you retired nonetheless

After a suicide we all go on trial
forced to reopen negotiations
with the inconsistent thing that sustains us

On that last corner a week later you’ve boiled
down to deli flowers votive candle framed photo
and a piece of red scrap metal
covered in misspelled Magic Marker wishes
More flotsam on the swelling tide of a mental health
that could choke a good man
and often does

Past streets of investment-colored condos
a lone wooden piling emerges from the calm river
just beyond the reach of the new pedestrian pier’s clean concrete
and stainless steel rails

All around, tender territories languish
and liquidate with the last of the margins
where once we might have lived

No longer the rough refuge of ill-employed refuseniks
No longer the thrift-store bargain bin of reinvented wheels
Bedford Avenue overflows
Its citizens willing
citizens of something smaller

Oh friend
retired from friendship
retired from all this
and friend
who murdered my friend

May my thoughts
climb the sunlight
to where you are
and reach them
in whose care you have arrived
whom I can not instruct
but only ask
to close your eyes
and open them again


COLIN DODDS’ fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in roughly three hundred publications, receiving accolades from luminaries including Norman Mailer and David Berman. Dodds’ shorter work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net Anthology, and his longer works have been finalists for the Trio House Press Louise Bogan Award and the 42 Miles Press Poetry Award, semi-finalists for the Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize and the American Zoetrope Contest. Colin lives in Brooklyn with his wife and daughter. See more of his work at