was born and raised in St.Petersburg, Russia, and came to the States in 1992. He's currently
a Ph.D candidate at SUNY-Binghamton and For the past five years has been teaching American Literature, Creative Writing, and
Russian Literature. Greg's current and forthcoming publications include a chapbook of poems from Foothills Press --"Nightshift
at Dunkin' Donuts," and individual pieces in "Poems and Plays," "The Paterson Review," "Concrete Wolf," "Cross-Cultural
Communications," and in an anthology called "I Just Hope It's Lethal" (Houghton Mifflin.)
Five Happy Gypsies
At 19 I was adopted by a band of whirling gypsies;
brutal winter of ’94 we drifted across Minnesota,
Selling ceramic kittens, crazy glue, and disco records.
snow storm blew us further and further north,
Till we found ourselves in front of Highland Motel.
The neon sign, peppered
with icicles flickered on and off.
It read 'Friendly Atmosphere; Affordable rates',
Which really meant 'Cheap
hookers; You won’t get busted'.
The owner, a Lithuanian refugee, wore a fur ushanka and mittens.
We paid him handsomely:
2 Pointer Sisters’ ‘45s and some glue.
He was glad for business; it was pretty dead ‘till we came.
seemed to enjoy our company; offered us some snuff.
The five of us piled inside a single room; old, but clean.
whom we called Johnny Peppers (not sure why,)
Turned on the TV; There was only one channel, Lifetime.
re-runs of 'Cagney and Lacey', 'Thirty-something',
'Spencer for Hire', and a premier of an original movie:
The Jessica Savitch story'.
Zoe and Lucia, the lactose-intolerant twins were bored.
'Let’s sing,' they said, and
their voices floated in the air.
They were doing Hank Williams, again, you know,
'Hey, good-looking… what ‘ya
got cooking', etc.
Johnny turned to me and said, 'how about that dude in Reno?'
And I said, 'yeah what a goof, getting
killed by an ’87 Yugo;
Couldn’t get hit by a bus, like a normal person'.
Raul took some snuff, smiled, and
repeated, 'yeah what a goof'.
That night, the motel teemed with roaches and hookers;
It snowed, then rained, then hailed
cats and dogs.
We slept on the floor, keeping each other warm;
Five figures in the carpet; Five happy gypsies.
Moonlight Café, Late August
This moustached dude in cowboy boots,
a tattoo of himself on his left arm
Is dominating tonight.
Alternating between coffee and scotch,
He flirts with
As they come and go, sometimes smiling.
He quotes from “The Wizard of Oz,”
no one in particular,
And everyone at once.
“Happens to me all the time,” he says,
“a little LSD,
and the flying monkeys
are all over me.”
That one makes me laugh out loud.
He seems gratified; giggles
like a kid.
The moustache walks along the counter,
High-fiving the reluctant grad students,
With their denim jackets
and cheap smokes.
We all feel it: Fall is almost here;
But for now, we’ll get more coffee,
And listen to the
Playing the “Folsom Prison Blues”
On his harmonica.
For the Oldest Living Manatee Born in Captivity
I found him on the table in my hotel room,
Inside one of those glossy brochures
without any ulterior motive,
To every new arrival at the Sarasota Comfort Inn.
His underwater silhouette stared at me
From among the sea of ads for local attractions:
The Siesta Village; Historic Spanish Point; Dino’s Pizza.
caption read 'Visit Snooty, the oldest living manatee
Born in captivity';
There was a trademark symbol next
to his name.
Everything in the photograph was blue:
The water, the seaweeds, and Snooty himself.
Only his nostrils
– I think they were nostrils –
Shone with a bright, radiant whiteness.
He was the biggest big thing I’ve
Huge eyes, huge mouth, huge body.
He looked like a giant floating elephant –
Minus the ears, the
legs, and the trunk.
But it was the look on his face,
Aimed straight at me that almost floored me.
It was the
saddest, most pitiful thing –
And there was something imperceptibly human-like in it,
Like that of a guy whose
wife ran off with a travelling squeegee man.
You’ve got a river, a county, and a Boulevard named after you,
you are still a captive; your world – a wet six by nine cage.
Snooty, dear Snooty, hang in there, buddy, I’m
coming for you.
I’ve seen it on the Simpsons; I know I can do this, I can see it:
I’m running, carrying
you out in my arms, all five tons of you;
Jonah and his whale got nothing on us.
And as I whisk you down Cortez Road,
closer and closer
To the Sarasota Bay, my heart pounds loud and clear,
In unison with yours, and a bunch of old ladies
in flowery dresses
Cheer us on and chant:
Oh – The- Humanatee!