The inner city street
is mostly tattoo parlors and bars.
interrupted here and there 
by a store-front church, a laundromat
and a shuttered hardware store.

There are tenements,
some occupied, some abandoned,
with older faces in the windows,
and the younger ones 
gathered on the stoops.

The grocery store
has more bars in its windows
than a jail.
Then there’s the sex and novelty emporium
where drugged-up dancers
rub against the glass of tiny booths.

You lived here once
and you’re having a hard time remembering
what was good about it.
The basketball court maybe.
The ballfield.
And what about the factories?
Noisy and dirty
yet they gave the neighborhood 
a bustling clanging brick and metal heart.
Now there’s a rusted padlock on every gate.

The stream is still there,
just as brown and smelly,
so much like a slithering snake,
you could swear you heard it hiss.
You stroll along the bank,
careful not to step on a syringe.
Your arms are done with such things
and your feet are unfamiliar with the needle.

John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident, recently published in Sheepshead Review, Stand, Poetry Salzburg Review and Ellipsis. Latest books, “Covert” “Memory Outside The Head” and “Guest Of Myself” are available through Amazon. Work upcoming in Washington Square Review and Red Weather.