It was late night in a gritty little Roxbury convenience store, winter of '83, years before the Boston real estate boom that brought a flood of young professionals, when most blocks had at least a few boarded-up brownstones and you looked over your shoulder when you walked around after dark. The store was a demilitarized zone for hookers and cops and drug dealers and drug addicts and night crawlers of every description, a joint where you could hand over a ten and they'd slip you a “dime bag”—a tiny yellow envelope with four or five joints worth of mediocre pot.
The guy who worked the register looked like an out-of-shape college linebacker, with coal-black shaved head and shiny gold tooth. Suddenly “Little Red Corvette” came on the store’s sound system and he jacked up the volume to sing along. Not lip synching—a full-throated, out-of-tune bleat—going nuts over a song by a skinny androgynous kid from Minneapolis, someone he probably would have beaten up in high school. A kid who wasn’t doing rock or R&B or funk exactly, but some crazy-ass, impossible-to-resist mash up. Genre-blending and gender bending like no one had ever seen.
At the bridge (…“and the ride is so smooth…you must be a limousine”…), cash register guy COMPLETELY LOST HIS MIND. Head back, shoulders bopping, wailing like a wounded moose…while the grinning white cop waited patiently to pay for his Coke and Slim Jims…
Charles Coe is author of two books of poetry: “All Sins Forgiven: Poems for my Parents” and “Picnic on the Moon,” both published by Leapfrog Press. His poetry has appeared in a number of literary reviews and anthologies, including Poesis, The Mom Egg, Solstice Literary Review, and Urban Nature. His novella, "Spin Cycles," was published in November, 2014 by Gemma Media. He is the winner of a fellowship in poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Charles’s poems have been set by a number of composers, including Beth Denisch, Julia Carey and Robert Moran. A short film based on his poem “Fortress” is currently in production by filmmaker Roberto Mighty. Charles is co-chair of the Boston Chapter of the National Writers Union, a labor union for freelance writers. He was selected by the Associates of the Boston Public Library as a “Boston Literary Light for 2014.” He is currently an artist fellow at the St. Botolph Club of Boston.