By Alpay Ulku
Featured art: Landscape by Paul Nash
We’re in the Taqueria Uptown. People are eating, or gazing out of windows, or talking to each other. The food is delicious and the coffee hot and fresh. A man walks in with a cheap guitar and pleads for our attention, then fumbles through three mangled songs.
You can hear the pain in his voice. If he were drowning in Lake Michigan, he would flail and grab the lifeguard in a bear hug.
How much do we owe this guy, who’s interrupted us at dinner? What is it we owe each other? Nothing at all?
Bless you all, I hope I’ve brought some sunshine to our lives. He looks around. All that playing has made me hungry for a nice steak taco.
Everyone tenses and ignores him.
It’s my dream to be a paid musician.
A jornalero says something in Spanish. The waitress shrugs and writes the order.
Could I have a side of sour cream with that? he asks her. You see, the peppers burn my mouth. He looks over to the jornalero. My mouth is very soft and sensitive.
The jornalero ducks his head, embarrassed and a little pissed. He nods okay.
It’s terrible to be so lonely, he says to no one in particular.
The waitress has laugh lines around her eyes, she likes to laugh. But her face is neutral now. She brings him the sour cream in a saucer with a plastic spoon, and the taco.
Everyone is hoping that nothing more is going to happen next.
Alpay Ulku’s book of poems is Meteorology (BOA Editions), and the manuscript making the rounds is Mercator. He was a First and Second Year Poetry Fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and has received residencies from the Millay Colony and the Wurlitzer Foundation, and grants from the Iowa Arts Council and the Illinois Arts Council. His work has appeared in AGNI, APR, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, and Slate’s “Best Valentine’s Day Poems” feature.