Stephen Gibson: “’80s New York City Noir”


If their killer had believed it made any difference
in their lives, or his, he might have stopped killing
the hookers he picked up on Manhattan streets,
those who came over to his passenger-side window
when he stopped near Times Square at the sidewalk
and rolled down the window as they looked at him.

It didn’t really matter who leaned in to look at him
because she’d be dead in hours, and what difference
if the wrong one in the group waiting on the sidewalk
came over, not the one he wanted—killing was killing.
Or if one of them smiled, bending down at the window
to ask, Want a date? as she looked up and down the street.

What difference if, at first, they ignored him on the street
when his car slowed to the curb—it didn’t matter to him:
someone would come over to his passenger-side window,
and the pleasure was him knowing it made no difference.
The pleasure wasn’t just the sex; the pleasure was killing.
He enjoyed watching who approached from the sidewalk.

Once, as he was watching one walk past on the sidewalk
away from him, unaware of him stopped on the street,
a cop tapped his bumper—he told the cop he was killing
time and wasn’t waiting there for any trouble to find him.
By the time he moved, she was gone—but what difference
did it make? The next street, another was at his window.

Another time, this hooker at his passenger-side window
was a girl he grew up with on Long island—they’d walk
to the public school together as kids, but what difference
was that, even though she told him she lived on his street
as a kid when he asked her what street. Her knowing him
as kids should make him in some way reconsider killing?

It didn’t—and in a prison interview he admitted her killing
was particularly savage. Asked if that might be a window
into his motivation, if it might disclose something in him
to account for his hunting women at night on sidewalks
in New York City, he answered that he realized the street
he asked her about was the wrong one. So what difference

did that make to the question? To killing her? That sidewalk
or another? Another face at his window on another street?
He answered that, to him, it didn’t make the least difference.

Stephen Gibson has published six poetry collections: The Garden of Earthly Delights Book of Ghazals (Texas Review Press, 2016), Rorschach Art Too (2014 Donald Justice Prize, Story Line Press, West Chester University), Paradise (Miller Williams prize finalist, University of Arkansas Press), Frescoes (Lost Horse Press book prize), Masaccio’s Expulsion (MARGIE/IntuiT House book prize), and Rorschach Art (Red Hen Press). Other new work appears in or is forthcoming in Able Muse, American Arts Quarterly, Copper Nickel, GargoyleGettysburg Review, Lake Effect, Louisiana Literature, Nimrod, North American Review, Per Contra, Pleiades, Quiddity, River Styx, Salamander, Sewanee Review, ShenandoahSouthern Review, Southwest Review, Unsplendid, and Yale Review.

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