Heat Wave


Bronx summer streets
smelling of piss and petunias,
tarblack smoke from the hotdog man’s cart
and roasting coconut soaked in caramel.
Ninety-some degrees
and only the taxis are moving too fast.
The streets throng with shoppers,
with casual slow-walkers,
with you-think-it’s-hot-out-here-
Drooping from the ends of their mothers’ arms
toddlers suck on dixie-cup helados,
they are climbing out of their sunsuits
and making tantrums among the feet of strangers.
Men in undershirts hunker in the shade
around old card-tables or upended crates
playing dice, cards, high-stakes chess,
checking out the chicas walking by.
Hot air blasts from the buses’ back ends
and the drips from the air conditioners
spatter on the street.
Laundry and merengue are flapping out of windows
and today even the air has a color
and a sound,
has a feel thick as butter
and a taste like a memory –
a candy apple hitting the hot sidewalk.

Jennifer Highland

Jennifer Highland’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Cider Press ReviewHeron TreeFestival of Language, the anthologies Done Darkness and Chronicles of Eve, and elsewhere. She lives and practices osteopathy in buildings she built and insulated herself to weather the cold winters of central New Hampshire.