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Greg Razran
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was born and raised in St.Petersburg, Russia, and came to the States in  1992. He's currently a Ph.D candidate at SUNY-Binghamton and For the past five years has been teaching American Literature, Creative Writing, and Russian Literature. Greg's current and forthcoming publications include a chapbook of poems from Foothills Press --"Nightshift at Dunkin' Donuts," and individual pieces in "Poems and Plays," "The Paterson Review," "Concrete Wolf," "Cross-Cultural Communications," and in an anthology called "I Just Hope It's Lethal" (Houghton Mifflin.)

Five Happy Gypsies

At 19 I was adopted by a band of whirling gypsies;
That brutal winter of ’94 we drifted across Minnesota,
Selling ceramic kittens, crazy glue, and disco records.
The snow storm blew us further and further north,
Till we found ourselves in front of Highland Motel.
The neon sign, peppered with icicles flickered on and off.
It read 'Friendly Atmosphere;  Affordable rates',
Which really meant 'Cheap hookers; You won’t get busted'.
The owner, a Lithuanian refugee, wore a fur ushanka and mittens.
We paid him handsomely: 2 Pointer Sisters’ ‘45s and some glue.
He was glad for business; it was pretty dead ‘till we came.
He seemed to enjoy our company; offered us some snuff.
The five of us piled inside a single room; old, but clean.
Jampur, whom we called Johnny Peppers (not sure why,)
Turned on the TV;  There was only one channel, Lifetime.
We watched re-runs of 'Cagney and Lacey', 'Thirty-something',
'Spencer for Hire', and a premier of an original movie:
'Almost Golden; The Jessica Savitch story'.
Zoe and Lucia, the lactose-intolerant twins were bored.
'Let’s sing,' they said, and their voices floated in the air.
They were doing Hank Williams, again, you know,
'Hey, good-looking… what ‘ya got cooking', etc.
Johnny turned to me and said, 'how about that dude in Reno?'
And I said, 'yeah what a goof, getting killed by an ’87 Yugo;
Couldn’t get hit by a bus, like a normal person'.
Raul took some snuff, smiled, and repeated, 'yeah what a goof'.
That night, the motel teemed with roaches and hookers;
It snowed, then rained, then hailed cats and dogs.
We slept on the floor, keeping each other warm;
Five figures in the carpet; Five happy gypsies.


 
 
Moonlight Café, Late August

This moustached dude in cowboy boots,
With a tattoo of himself on his left arm
Is dominating tonight.
Alternating between coffee and scotch,
He flirts with both waitresses,
As they come and go, sometimes smiling.
He quotes from “The Wizard of Oz,”
Addressing no one in particular,
And everyone at once.
“Happens to me all the time,” he says,
“a little LSD, and the flying monkeys
are all over me.” 
That one makes me laugh out loud.
He seems gratified; giggles like a kid.
The moustache walks along the counter,
High-fiving the reluctant grad students,
With their denim jackets and cheap smokes.
We all feel it: Fall is almost here;
But for now, we’ll get more coffee,
And listen to the tattooed cowboy
Playing the “Folsom Prison Blues”
On his harmonica.   

                                       
 
 
For the Oldest Living Manatee Born in Captivity
 
I found him on the table in my hotel room,
Inside one of those glossy brochures
Provided, without any ulterior motive,
To every new arrival at the Sarasota Comfort Inn.
His underwater silhouette stared at me
From among the sea of ads for local attractions:
The Siesta Village; Historic Spanish Point; Dino’s Pizza.
The caption read 'Visit Snooty, the oldest living manatee
Born in captivity'; 
There was a trademark symbol next to his name.

Everything in the photograph was blue:
The water, the seaweeds, and Snooty himself.
Only his nostrils – I think they were nostrils –
Shone with a bright, radiant whiteness.
He was the biggest big thing I’ve ever seen:
Huge eyes, huge mouth, huge body.
He looked like a giant floating elephant –
Minus the ears, the legs, and the trunk.

But it was the look on his face,
Aimed straight at me that almost floored me.
It was the saddest, most pitiful thing –
And there was something imperceptibly human-like in it,
Like that of a guy whose wife ran off with a travelling squeegee man.

You’ve got a river, a county, and a Boulevard named after you,
But you are still a captive; your world – a wet six by nine cage.
Snooty, dear Snooty, hang in there, buddy, I’m coming for you.
I’ve seen it on the Simpsons; I know I can do this, I can see it:
I’m running, carrying you out in my arms, all five tons of you;
Jonah and his whale got nothing on us.
And as I whisk you down Cortez Road, closer and closer
To the Sarasota Bay, my heart pounds loud and clear,
In unison with yours, and a bunch of old ladies in flowery dresses
Cheer us on and chant:

Oh – The- Humanatee!
Oh-The-Humanatee!

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