Tag Archives: cigarettes

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

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Postcard from Home

Postcard said he checked two shelters last night
They all full and I got there early
I had to sleep at the airport – no one likes to sleep on the blue line

Postcard said he checked at three shelters Christmas night

Postcard keeps himself groomed and ready to work
Nobody got no work
Nobody got no money
All the shelters fillin’ up
And I got there early

I wondered who felt better
After the burgers and coffee

Slippers in the Snow

She wears slippers in the snow
Her ankles are raw and red and angry
Her smile fades as she puffs out thin steam
Across the frozen air between them

She wears slippers in the snow
Grey slush as cruel as her childhood
She remains defiant of the weather
The weather remains indifferent to her

And her slippers in the snow

Philadelphia 1977

I was never beautiful even when the illusion of my own beauty seduced me
And I carried that illusion – used it as a shield as I navigate my mortality
The illusion has let me down like an underfed love connection in Philadelphia – 1977

The philanderers and the charlatans of my dreams have finally caught up with me
They have taken my legs out from under me – as if there was nothing I could do about it
They did me a favor – they have stripped away the artifice that held me safe since 1977

I will never be beautiful but I will be honest – I will be out on the limb reaching for fruit
The best of what that old tree offers – that appears to be just out of reach – that fruit
I will not let myself down like bottle of vodka and a stranger in Philadelphia – 1977

On a Rooftop in Cicero

Because a lifetime ago something happened on a rooftop in Cicero
And no one ever really got the whole story
So we filled in the blanks ourselves
Ours was a much better story anyway
It was all about this guy one summer night on a rooftop in Cicero
His mother was taking him back to where he came from

When he saw her face in the drunken haze of the shameful moon
He wanted to push her off of that rooftop in Cicero
She moaned and reached for his throat as she opened her eyes
There is some truth here – some of this story is true
She looked in the eyes of her own son and didn’t know what to do

Now his oldest son looks just like his best friend
It is uncanny how much his kid looks like his oldest friend
No one here seems to want to talk out loud about it

September Birds Revisited

Your eyes flit across the page landing on the words long enough
To extract the pollen of my emotion
You are reading about birds – doomed birds – but you don’t know it yet
The coffee on the iron bench beside you is starting to get cold

I can see by the sparkle in your eyes where you are on the page
You are still here in Chicago – you love the child and his mother
I love you for seeing my family in them – seeing me and seeing my own mother
My coffee is perfect – crisp like the pages you hold in your hand

As you turn the page I am with you all the way to the small village in Italy
You stop to let something sink in – I think you might have an idea where this is going
You sip the coffee and look at me as if to ask the question you don’t want me to answer
Then back to the page as I pivot restlessly poking through my pockets for a cigarette.

I see the tears welling up and rolling down your perfect face and I feel bad for a minute
I know how the story ends so I’m not sad about the old man -I just don’t want you to feel conned
You know me well enough to know how it is going to end – but you’ve been tricked before
You place your hand on your chest and hitch once – twice – then you look up at me and smile

Later – at the bar – I am pouring drinks for the families at your engagement party
Your face is so tragically twisted in sadness it forces you to apologize to me
You look me in the eye – and through your tears – at your party – your big night
You ask me to understand – you tell me it was just one of those things

One minute we are sharing coffee and words and thoughts and love
The next minute we’re back on opposite sides of a chasm that is only a few feet wide
But it may as well be a few miles wide – you can’t even look at me anymore
And we are back in 1976 a low-rent Romeo and Juliet with nothing and everything to say