The Alarm Clock and the Parking Meter


A chef in Berlin awakes with a start

at the sound of his smartphone’s alarm.

It’s for the morning run they used to take

around the Brandenburg gate.

But that’s over now.

On Friday his wife packed

and ran for the train.


The cashier in Miami’s Little Havana

looks at her watch with the frayed faux-leather band.

It’s time to pay the meter across from the bodega.

Hers is a reflex that doesn’t tire, keeps her wired,

even though she lost her job last week.

They’re tearing the bodega down

to build condos.


In Los Angeles an aspiring actress

checks to see that her agent is still sleeping.

From under the mattress,

she pulls out the black and white

headshot of her boyfriend.

She can still smell his loose-leaf tobacco,

and picture his impatient fingers

rolling a cigarette

first thing in the morning.

But that’s over now.

He overdosed two years ago

after relapsing into his other,

more tenacious, routine.

The Alarm Clock and the Parking Meter is the fifth poem in the series, Grilled Cheese Sandwiches and Other Tales of Love and Loss by Sally O’Dowd.

Image: Omar Villegas @lostsaintbkny on instagram.