Stretch Limo Blues

                Get this – 
the airport shuttle out of McCarran 
is a black stretch limo, 
six of us in here, six dollars a hit 
all of us new to the city 
and joking, Man, man, 
ain’t this the style 
and won’t the folks outside 
be wondering 
if we aren’t Guns’n’Roses 
or someone rolling in to town to play 
Caesar’s or the Mandalay Bay. 
But, hey, this is Vegas – stretch limos 
glide down every street, and who gives a shit – 
the cocktail cabinet’s empty, 
taunting us with its walnut veneer. 
Opposite me the old-timer with flipover hair 
fiddles with his bag, fetches out a pair of shades, 
places them over his big hook nose, rheumy eyes – 
       now he’s serene and beautiful 
       as an 80-odd-year-old can be, 
       dressed in black silk 
       wearing a gold rock 
       big as a bomb 
       on his wedding finger. 
He drums on the quilted upholstery 
keeping time to Jim Morrison’s beat –
   break on through to the other side 
And I’m just beginning to figure things out: 
       I’ve left the Chrysler at Thrifty 
       I’m staying clear of casinos today 
       I’m heading downtown to the Greyhound 
       to learn this nugget of American reality – 
                No car 
I watch a cactus passing 
through the mirror of his shades 
surprised to find myself in there – 
my swollen reflection 
and see how almost overnight 
my arm has grown so rich with silver hair. 

Feeding the Pigeons of Fremont Street

Falling out of the Golden Gate Casino 
   with nothing to my name 
   on Fremont’s pedestrian mall 
   beneath its great vault of lasers and neon 
I see them again 
   the girls from the Russian doll stall 
   and Dress Your Critter 
   and the Buddha Ping Scent Centre – 
all three of them feeding cookie crumbs 
   to the pigeons that come 
   and coo 
and gather there 
   as though to manicure 
   their perfume-scented fingers.


In 2004 Cliff Fell received a Creative New Zealand grant to travel to the USA and Mexico. He is currently working on a second book of poems, Beauty of the Badlands.