I remember the time I saw a praying mantis walking down Fifth Avenue
He was right there on the sidewalk
(or probably it was a she
because it had that
tussled widow look)
flailing her antennae, bulging grass green eyes
as she crept
to dodge the high-heeled shoes
of colossal window shoppers
I made my mother
stop so I could stare
and then other people started staring too
Some of them had no idea what it was
and I was proud to tell them
it’s a praying mantis
they bite the heads off their husbands, you know?
No wonder I had her marked as a widow!
A malicious gold-digger, no doubt
who just acquired a marvelous inheritance
after decapitating her opulent husband
and she was feeling so goddamn nouveau riche,
where else to go but Fifth Ave?
A pigeon tried to eat her for breakfast at Tiffany’s.
She barely escaped with her stick-straight legs
that twitch now, steering her crookedly
through toppling dreams
of urban extravagance
(the kind that crushes you on the nearest pavement
unless you get your grassy ass home)
Railroad apartment in Bed-Stuy
white kids pay 350/head
Door reads: BEWARE PUSSY SUNRISE
in a conflagration of pink paint
Caribbean landlord curses under his breath
every time he knocks for the rent check
Art student gives free tattoos to the Bloods
they won’t steal his lunch money
Weed-pusher tips the cable guy a dime bag
he gives them extra channels
Bro-dude swings a broom at the smoke detector
to get his hands on a 9-V battery
Pill-popping poet types furious manifestos:
We’re not gentrifiers, we’re refugee irredentists!
They decorate a crooked Christmas tree
with sixty-cent cans of King Cobra
The downstairs neighbors drank half those beers
who’s gonna ask them to chip in?
If a friend is homeless, there’s a big ol’ couch
as long as he pretends to wash dishes
They play a different punk rock song on each stereo
dulling the pulse of the neighborhood
Church on the corner tingles with tambourines
all the bodegas are bulletproof
They tug hard on the blanket when gunshots blare
and wish it was an umbilical cord
RICHARD PRINS is a third-year Columbia College student and New York nativist. Hobbies include subway-riding and platypus advocacy.