Writing the Apocalypse: Black Friday Walk

Writing the Apocalypse is a weekly series featuring the poems, essays, and recollections of Puma Perl, with subject matter influenced by her experiences as a NYC resident during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Black Friday Walk | TEXT & PHOTOS BY PUMA PERL

Lines snaking around Broadway

Designer sneakers on sale


Down the block,

at City MD,

half a dozen people wait

for COVID tests


Back on 1st Street, sad faces

and shopping carts linger

outside Mary House, hoping

for a clean pair of socks

with their coffee and oatmeal


Everybody’s waiting for something


I walk, unaware of my destination,

until I turn onto University

I pass the Writer’s favorite shops,

and wonder if he would have ordered

a Thanksgiving dinner from Agata

had he survived through the holidays


I stand outside his door,

stare down the empty street,

and at the lock he turned

100,000 times or more

Mostly sober those last years

Mostly alone

except for the walker

I see the familiar images through his eyes,

like Magritte painting a cigar or the moon


The moon is not the moon,

it is the sun today

but it’s not the sun either,

not anymore for the Writer

but it’s still the same apartment

An impassable flight of stairs

A desk stuffed with manuscripts

and a computer filled with jazz

remain in the dusty room

They are waiting, too


Back on University

I stop at Madman Café

where we met for good coffee

and stale pastries

I decide to “treat myself”

because it’s his expression

The coffee’s delicious

and so is the cheese Danish


Although we talked about it

he never got to sit outside

with me at Madman

or walk down

to the Noodle Shop

where I drank sake

and he drank tea,

never bought the couch

he had his eye on,

black leather with reclining seats

He wrote that he wanted to hold hands

and listen to Monk

(of course, stated only in writing)

and I thought but didn’t say

I’m more of a rock and roll girl,

playing the radio, sitting

on a maroon velour bench seat

in a 1980 Delta 88


I continue home, past 3rd avenue,

no longer a 24-hour stroll

Past my 10th street apartments,

Past Tompkins Square Park

where our kids played

in their red yellow blue sneakers

and mismatched socks,

down Avenue B, the DMZ

There is no DMZ anymore,

just a few bodegas hanging on


At Clinton, I consider stopping

at the market

but all I really need is flowers

I rebuke myself

for “needing” flowers

as I pass more food lines,

more carts filled

with blankets and single boots

Do I really need flowers?


I stop at the market.

I need flowers.

I carry them home.


© puma perl, 12/09/20

Puma Perl is a poet and writer, with five solo collections in print. The most recent is Birthdays Before and After (Beyond Baroque Books, 2019.) She is the producer/creator of Puma’s Pandemonium, which brings spoken word together with rock and roll, and she performs regularly with her band Puma Perl and Friends. She’s received three New York Press Association awards in recognition of her journalism, and is the recipient of the 2016 Acker Award in the category of writing. Her most recent books can be found by clicking here.

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