Featured Writer Claudia Serea

The greatest musical of all time

A Tale from the Decameron by John William Waterhouse

This city is not made of bricks,
but of bodies stacked together,
flesh turned to cement,
and asphalt skin.

Even the glass is not glass,
but fingernails and retinas
stretched to cover the facades,

and I can see bones sticking out
from the scaffolding
and the sides of the buildings
where the ribs are steel beams, holding
the structures together.

And everyone’s hair runs underground
in wires and cables.

The city embraces us with its long avenues
so we can’t escape.

It makes sure we’ll never leave.

And we love it.

We love you to death, we whisper
in its furry rat ear.

2.Do you hear that?

It’s the tune the deliveryman hums,
waiting for the light to change,

heard by the halal vendor
who whistles it, frying rice,
and the rice sizzles
and whistles it, too.

And the song is picked up by the woman
who gives out cupcake samples
with little rounded mouths
like choir boys,

and by the waiter who harmonizes, walking
with two glasses on a tray

to the table of the two old ladies
and they croon, cin-cin,
in the taxi cab on the way to a show.

And the taxi driver hums it, too,
honking and cursing,
Move, move, motherfucker,

and the casts belt it out
in all the Broadway shows,
as Times Square screeches and turns
its rotting stage,
where everyone sings and dances,

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Welcome to New York City!

Then the lights turn on cue at twilight
when everyone rushes out
and the cleaning crew walks in,
with jazz hands, brooms, and rakes,
and a marching band,

Welcome, welcome, welcome
to the greatest musical
of all time.


About the writer:
Claudia Serea’s poems have appeared in Field, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. She has published five poetry collections, most recently TwoXism, a collaboration with photographer Maria Haro (8th House Publishing, 2018). Serea co-hosts The Williams Readings in Rutherford, NJ, and she is a founding editor of National Translation Month.

Image: A Tale from the Decameron by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917). Oil on canvas. 39.7 x 32.4 inches. 1919. Public domain.