Luke Kuzmish

Memories of a New Jersey Project

New Jersey is a convenience store
I hunted for an ATM on an October night.
I had avowed to never use heroin again but now
I was half-drunk or half-sober

The bartender immediately made me for what I was
miserable and unconvinced that anyone had an answer
or anything to offer
to supplement the human condition
there were bottles of liquor in the back
a dining room off to the right
down a rickety hallway

I told him I was broke
when I didn’t leave him much of a tip
on a sixty dollar tab
I have to imagine
I wasn’t the first
nor the last
to lie in a barroom
under dim light
in the fall of a New Jersey night

Then my house guest and I
left to go cop
in the projects of Trenton
I made him drive
I was too drunk
we showed up
& parked in a fenced in lot
“don’t talk to nobody”
advised
the man on the phone who I never met.
in New Jersey
there’s always a voice on the end of the line
that never matches
the person who strolls up to
the Korean made car window
after making me wait

A woman showed up
I had seen her before
she was tall and thin
long expensive hair
& a leather jacket

somewhere between
rusted chain link
and towering brick apartment
buildings
there were shots fired
just before
her hand met mine
“Oh shit”
she turned and walked off
my salvation
walked off with her
my inert wad of 20s
wrapped tight in my drunken fingers

my friend
his first full night here in Jersey
turned on the car
and
over the din
of city cop SUV sirens
I said,
“No
let’s stay”

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