Poetry / Poets / Writers / Writing

2 Poems by Ally Malinenko

The Dingle

We’ve been walking for hours,
through the suburbs of Liverpool.
We were going to call it a day
before I said that it won’t count if we don’t find them all.

It’s only Ringo, he says.
And the Dingle is a shithole.
I tease him.
Ringo is still a Beatle, I tell him.
Besides he slugged it out with Rory Storm and the Hurricanes
while the other three were slugging it out as the Beatles.
We have to find them all or it doesn’t count.

He agrees because he knows how I get.
I already couldn’t find Cynthia’s house off of Penny Lane
a black mark on my exploring record.
I can’t lose Ringo too.

We walk, twisting the map,
searching for street signs
on these dirty streets.

It will be all boarded up, he tells me.
They were going to tear it down.
When we finally find Madryn Street
it looks like war zone. A full street of boarded up row houses.
I’ve never seen anything like it.
We walk down the center of the street looking for house numbers.

That’s when I hear it.
Voices behind the shuttered doors.
People talking.
I think about the squatters who’ve taken residence in here.

Suddenly the main street seems far and it dawns on me
that this is the perfect place to mug
two stupid stupid stupid
New Yorker tourists who needed to see all the houses
or else it wouldn’t count.
I think about how dumb I am
watching my husband wanders father down the road, snapping pictures.

I pull my wallet from my pocket.
Slip a twenty banknote and my atm card into my hoodie
just in case they take my wallet. That way we’ll at least have some money for the bus.
I think I’m being smart. Practical. Prepared like a fucking Boy Scout.

Later, as we make our way out of the Dingle,
utterly unharmed
and I spot the Cathedral Church of Christ in the distance
knowing that will lead to the bar the John Lennon liked to drink at,
he sees me slip my bank card back in my wallet.

What are you doing? he asks

When I tell him about being prepared he laughs,
puts and arm around me and says,
Baby, there was nothing to worry about.

I nod. I know I tell him, but you never know.
I think about that girl that was shot in New York
Her last words being, What are you going to do? Shoot me?
Before that guy pulled the trigger and killed her right there on the street.
But that is America.
And this is England
when my husband says,

I’d never give up my wallet.
They’d have to shot me first.
Come on, baby, let’s go get a pint.
My feet hurt.

Get On the Magic Bus

The guy at the trinket shop where I buy my George Harrison pin
is telling the other customer not to bother.
Just do the National Trust tour, he says.
Just go see John’s house and Paul’s house and forget the rest.
Beside he says, the Dingle is a real shithole.
The guy shrugs, folds up his map and pushes open the door
to join the rest of the tourists in Liverpool.

This is the moment I make my decision.
When we ask about a better map,
the guy at the counter tell us there are really
good taxi tours.
You can take a tour, he says, not have to worry.
Besides, it’s too hard on your own.
I know a guy, he tells me, drives one of those cabs,
he knows more about the Beatles than anyone.

I nod, thank him for the water and leave.
We find out about a transit pass.
We mark up the only map we have.
We set out early the next morning
like explorers.

It’s two miles to the first home.
We tie our shoes tight.

When people look at my pictures they shrug.
It’s just a bunch of old houses.
Graves.
What did you do on vacation, they ask?
They stress the word “do”

I don’t get on the tour bus.
And it’s not a vacation. It’s a trip. There’s a difference.

I want to tell them this but I don’t.
They wouldn’t understand.
When I tried to explain
that finding these people is a kinship
a thing that ties me to the past
to the art that I need.
They shrug and say, I guess, if you’re into that sort of thing.
They don’t see the point.
They ask if I went to see any West End shows.
If I went on the London Eye.
They want better pictures.

I hold the map. We head down Beech Street to Wavertree Road.
He takes the pictures.
By the time we get to Arnold Grove,
where George was born it is raining.
The people that live there
don’t want us around.
We keep our distance on the narrow streets.
We need to see it. We need to know it’s real,
the way we did with the other houses,
the other graves.

We snap just one picture before turning back the way we came.
In the distance, is the Magical Mystery Tour Bus.
It will never fit up those narrow streets.
I wonder what the view is like from up there,
watching a city stream by,
never really seeing it. Never walking its streets
or talking to its people.
He waves to the people in the high seats as the bus passes us.
He tells me, we don’t get on buses.
I nod.
I take out the map.
He takes another picture.

Get me to Penny Lane, he says.
And I do.

There is a reverence to what we do,
to this walk. It is in honor.
It is a thank you for everything we have been given.
A god can be anything that shows up,
just when you need it.
With this map in my hand, this is how I pray.

 


Ally Malinenko’s second book of poem Crashing to Earth is forthcoming from Tainted Coffee Press and her first novel for children, Lizzy Speare and the Cursed Tomb was recently published by Antenna Books. She lives in the part of Brooklyn the tour buses don’t come to but was voted to have the best halal truck.

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