Tag Archives: broken toys

The Bishop of State Street

The Bishop of State Street has seen more things than you and me
His hard dark eyes are barely contained in their bony sockets
Beads of sweat the size of a baby’s fist get caught in the folds of his nose
And in the deep dark dimples that crease the sides of his face
He keeps his head on a swivel because he doesn’t like surprises

The State Street crowd is changing too quickly and the old ghosts are gone
Younger – harder – faster people push by him but they don’t see him anymore
The rhythm of the change and the rhythm of the night remind him of the trains
The rhythms remind him of the trains that brought him up here for a better life
The rhythms remind him of beat of his mother’s heart when she held him home safe

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In Three Years (The Silver Shoes)

We never dreamed there would ever be a time that we weren’t together
You bought me these silver shoes when the black ones just didn’t fit anymore
Soon after the day we found each other – we knew that we would be better off apart
But we were trapped by empty promises to family and friends
The biggest and the emptiest of these lies were the lies we told each other
The biggest and the emptiest of these lies were the lies we told ourselves
We hung on – foolishly – to an idea that had long run its short course
There were nothing left but easy habits and low expectations

When I knew the weight of our life together was too much – I walked away
It was just before Independence Day – weeks after we marked our third year together
At that point you didn’t love me anymore – if you ever did at all – I’ll never know
I loved the idea of you but I only stayed because I was afraid to leave you alone
That final split was breathtaking liberation for me
That final split found me bursting out of the cold dark water
That final split was my rebirth into a better saner world

I finally pulled those new silver shoes out of the box today and tried them on
They are soft and comfortable like I always hoped we’d be someday
They’ll break down and fall apart in about three years – just like we did

In Pittsburgh

We’re driving southbound on Route 51 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
I’m feeling nostalgic for memories of things that never actually happened
I don’t know this place – I’ve never been here before – not on this road anyway
But it is October and the world spinning by us in a Hallmark autumn color chart
It is raining – more a drizzle – and with the window down we can smell the earth
We feel welcome enveloped in this new view of this old and beautiful city
My melancholy is palpable – it hangs there in the car between us – but we press on
We’re driving southbound on Route 51 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

When Hope Left Town

The trees are mostly bare now – the branches reach up to the cold gray sky
They stretch like the fingers of a drowning man in his last grasp with breath

The cold moist wind forces its way up the back of your flimsy regulation work coat
You wrap yourself around yourself – but the cold is an unforgiving master

Hope left town on Wednesday morning on a slow train heading far away from here
Hope left town on Wednesday morning breaking the hearts of the people who need it most

The children on the platform wave weakly as the train pulls away – they cry out loud
Their hearts are no longer their own as slivers fall away and down between the railroad ties

There is a storm coming – a purple electric storm will soon hover over all of our heads
The strong will survive – the lesser of us – not as much – but we don’t have any choice

Hope left town Wednesday morning and we did nothing to stop it on its way
Hope left town Wednesday morning – now it is up to us to protect each other from the storm

Summer 1969

Everybody has a Riverview Park – a Fairyland – a Kiddieland
A soft-focus poorly lit memory Gramma and a handful of nickels and live goldfish
A peculiar place where the smell of popcorn mixes with the aroma of motor oil
Rigged carnie games that somehow never taught us the vagaries of life in time
Dirty-faced men lean on boxes pushing levers provoking the cacophony of screaming children

The white picket fence between you and the deer until your dad brings you in to feed them
You mother unwraps a baloney sandwich and lays it on the creased wax paper for you
Gramma sneaks a cigarette behind the Tilta-whirl as if no one sees her there – puffing away
There is a small patch of trees behind the ticket booth – you’ve been warned so you steer clear
The sun becomes a sleepy penumbra over the tops of the trees out along Harlem Avenue

1974: Revisited

On the crowded bus in the inky darkness
On the wings of a child’s naïve utterance
You get dropped back into 1974
A chubby kid in a tattered parka
Crunching through the new fallen snow
Your footprints tell the story from the back door
Through all of the yards ending at the railroad tracks
No one else from your neighborhood walks in this weather
You clutch your brown paper Jewel gym bag in your frozen fingers

Your basketball shorts are hand me downs
They were once your mother’s dance shorts
No one will ever know – that is your prayer anyway
The kids are more distracted by your cracked cardboard shoes
The school shoes pinch your feet and scuff the floor

The low-slung building overflows with familiar sounds
New gym shoes squeak on the highly polished floor
Bouncing balls beat uneven rhythm in their own time
Chuck Taylor rules the day – that big blue star glares at you
That big blue star threatens to remind you who you are
And the steamy locker room offers no solace – no comfort

You are not one of them – not in 1974 and not now
You are not one of them – not in this bus and not in this world

The siren piercing the night drags you back to 79th and Vincennes
Your little house on the quiet street is a hand me down
It was once your mother’s home
They all know – they all know

You finally get close to figuring out who you are now
You are you mother’s son and this is where you belong

Leaving the Conversation

(P-Bone’s flow)

So you left
I’m not bereft
It wasn’t theft
It’s for the best

You see my words
Are like Nerds
Not the man, G
But the can-dy

I give you sweet words
My reet petite words
If I do real good
I’ll make you feel good

That’s my gift to you
There’s no rift with you
Just a lift for you

So leave if you need to
Find a kid you can read to
Or a rock you can climb on
Or you own words to rhyme on

Just try to remember
From January through December
Until my words find an end
You will always be my friend