Sirens by Tina Cane


I’ve been meaning to tell you that the skin around her eyes was thin

with blue veins fanning out like ferns     that she was pale for a Puerto Rican

and that she spit and threw change at my feet as I waited to cross the street

to tell you that I wouldn’t let her man take me for hot dogs at the Second Avenue Deli

or to Jade Mountain for pork fried rice     that I knew what a hat like that meant

to say    his diamond crucifix the way he swayed his coat     flicked sunflower seeds

from between his teeth     strutting behind the line of parked cars     I’ve been meaning

to tell you that the parking lot on the corner was not always a dorm     that once I saw her

bloodied and on her back beside a car      that two kids laughed pulling rings off her fingers

as she squinted in the sun     that I put my backpack on both shoulders     readied my key

that I ran from the sound of the sirens




To tell you my dad drove a cab for forty years     kept a red bean he got

from an Ethiopian guy in the back pocket of his Levi’s to ward off hemorrhoids

that he wrote me notes throughout the night on the margins of his fare sheet     stuff

like  “eat yogurt for osteoporosis”     that he listened to Tosca for another life in which

he didn’t have his foot on any pedal     didn’t ever have to chase a punkass kid to get his

money back then end up buying the kid a sandwich      to tell you that he was a Jewish guy

from Brooklyn     what the fuck he’d pound the wheel     cut off cut short     another Brooklyn

fare     not going back there with no return trip over the bridge     to tell you that he drove

like a pro back when the medallion itself was a thing of beauty     deco-like     clicking

its nickel intervals with approximate precision     the weight of it enough to crush

just about anything




I’ve been meaning to tell you that my mother and father once fought

for fifty hours straight in our basement apartment off Second Avenue

that the table fan was set to oscillate as they worked their way through

recriminations     cups of coffee     a carton of Marlboros     that my mother

tossed a day’s worth of meals into her flashing wok at hasty intervals

as my father paced the room     been meaning to tell you that the girls

on the block scraped pavement in their platform shoes like weights just outside

our one gated window     that we often heard Peaches the transvestite weeping

about a Hasid john from Delancey Street or a guy from Staten Island who liked

to rip out her hair     meaning to tell you that they made the movie Taxi Driver

right around the corner the year before     that I thought my dad might have been in it

since he drove a cab     had also been an actor     was once a bartender down on Bleecker St.

that he said I was too young to see such a film and about Saturday Night Fever

my mother said definitely not




That there was a Nordic Track bought in 1996 still in its box

blocking the way to the coat rack on which my dad hung his London Fog

$3,000 in its pocket for me to collect     as he had requested from his hospital bed     plus stacks of cash

from the safe deposit box    from under his mattress and the Polly-O Ricotta container in the freezer

beside the Eddy’s Light Ice Cream and empty ice tray     been meaning to tell you there was $30,000

in my purse by the end of the day     to tell you that I tried to buy a giant stuffed peacock from a shop

on Christopher St. the day he died     but ended up lugging a duffel bag of twenties to Greenwood

Cemetery instead to purchase a plot for him on the hill     I’ve been meaning to tell you that cash

is how a cabbie’s daughter pays her father’s bills     to tell you there was a wall of books by his bed

a broken shutter on a split hinge     piles of newspaper clippings to be filed per a system that didn’t exist

that he left his hack license on the bed-stand with the pocket knife we gave him     the carnelian ring

the paper birthday crown my children made     and made him wear buried in plush animals on the carpet

in their room     that there was a rucksack of photos and mementos from his old friend Wallach

when my dad cleared out his place but never had the wake     to tell you that he never

even opened the bag after humping it up the stairs     just talked to Wallach in his head

every day till the end     about the girl in those photos     about articles he should have read


Tina Cane was born and raised in New York City. She is a poet, teacher and founder/director of Writers-in-the-Schools, RI. Her work has appeared in numerous journals including Barrow Street, Hanging Loose, The Literary Review and Spinning Jenny. She lives outside of Providence with her husband and their three children.