When Lester Johnson jumped off the Williamsburg Bridge last Wednesday, Marcus wasn’t surprised to learn the bad news. In the immediate aftermath, Marcus was overcome with the usual sadness that accompanies such tragedies, but now, as he stares at the closed casket on display, all he can think about are the difficulties Lester faced for over a decade, ever since Lauren found out about the drugs and the debts and filed for divorce, and he understands that Lester’s final plunge into eternal darkness, while unfortunate, isn’t exactly unexplainable.

Surrounded by the few family members Lester didn’t manage to alienate during…

All Lily wants in this moment is a handsome man she can show off to her best friend Melissa, who is selfishly using Saturday brunch as an opportunity to boast about her good fortune for having finally found, after countless uninspiring Joes and Jims and at least one Jesse, the husband of her dreams. Lily was introduced to Jason during those early stages of courtship five years ago and proclaimed, with unwavering passion to anyone who would listen, that Jason was not the desirable hunk Melissa propped him up as, but Lily realized some time ago that all the other…

Why does Happiness always hover
high above my bed sheets
like the pesky house fly?
Too agile to be swatted away,
her buzzing too shrill to avoid.
“Pay attention to me!” she pleads.

I prefer the less prying Woe.
She, unlike Happiness, does not ask for anything.
She does not require a daily check-in,
endless reassurances of unwavering devotion,
reminders of how wonderful she is,
and how grateful I am just to have her around.

Woe is not high maintenance. She sits in silence, and doesn’t need me to acknowledge her presence. But Happiness, with her constant demands, so impossible…

Woody Allen and Dianne Wiest in ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’

I was in high school when I first saw Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and it changed my life.

By that time, I had discovered movies and knew who Allen was, but I wasn’t familiar with his filmography. I found the DVD at a local Target, of all places, and since they didn’t have a copy to rent at Blockbuster, I decided to buy it. Of all the movies I own, I’ve rewatched Hannah and Her Sisters the most.

What struck me then, and still does, is the melancholy tone of the film. Unlike Allen’s previous slapstick comedies…

Mother, when you forget my name
will you at least recognize my face?
Or will I become indistinguishable
from the janitor on the night shift?
Like grandma, the last time I saw her,
when she thought I was her dead brother.

Will you save me a place
among the ruins of your mind?
Just a small secret space
where we can watch Jeopardy together,
and race to shout out the right answers.
As if everything was fine, like normal, like before.

Or must I accept this fate of inevitable degradation, of finite devotion? of lost car keys and misplaced kitchenware…

The morning was reading my poem,
but I wasn’t paying attention.
This happens, sometimes, when I focus solely on myself.
I forget to look up and listen.

The sun was singing her song.
(one of the classic jazz standards)
The clouds were coloring their canvas.
(a new shade of cornsilk)
The wind was dancing.
(the jitterbug is his favorite)

But I, lost in trivial thought, missed the show,
assuming I would find inspiration elsewhere,
in my own sullen isolation, most likely,
not accepting the wisdom of my muses.

Dear sun,
will you ever forgive my fickle mind?


Where ATMs taunt the poor on every street corner
but the polling place remains closed
the abortion clinic is bloodied with false choices
the food pantry is riddled with rotten plums
the homeless shelter is stacked with a hundred sobbing children

Where chickens bellow in cages as progress breaks their beaks
but the vegetable garden is barren

Where the white supremacist wraps himself in satin sheets
but the sage sleeps in the sewer

Where rifles are the religion of the masses
but reading is an endangered ritual
the shooting range shouts the hillbilly’s screed
the library whispers the hero’s lament

Jon Alexander

Follow Instagram @jonalexandernyc

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