Tag Archives: dad

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

The Rise and The Fall and The Loss

I feel the weight of the loss of my county’s history
And my soul sighs for what my child will never see

This isn’t a diatribe against the epic leaps of progress
This isn’t a diatribe against our country’s growing pains

This is a search for the less amazing things we grew up with
The things we never knew we’d one day miss only now we do
The things that are lost now – lost to time – lost to decay – lost to life

My country’s history is not always an inaccessible concept in a too heavy book
Sometimes my country is simple in its story – unfettered by class or by nationality
It can be a phone with a dial and a party line shared with the upstairs neighbors
Or a one-piece clothes pin that snaps when mother is hanging sheets out to dry
But makes a great milk-bottle game to play at your birthday party

My country’s history is a brilliant tapestry of rich colors and dazzling hues

Much of my country’s history is crumbling before my eyes and no one seems to care
These aren’t renewal projects that signal the advance of a civilization – these are different
These are decay and apathy and a shameful loss of vision and potential
These are anger and spite and the idle hands that are the devil’s pleasure

Mother doesn’t even hang the laundry out on the line anymore
Mother doesn’t even host birthday parties anymore
I’ve had enough birthdays – I have enough history

Home Movies

The lie that I call my childhood
Unfolded before me in 8mm glory
Sputtering along on the sprockets
Wrapped in an eerie rhythmic silence
Images flicker by across the little screen
Frame after frame of irresponsible innocence
The safety that the old shoe box held
has been betrayed
The shelf in the deepest corner
Of my father’s closet
Holds nothing now except for dust
Thick gray dust
The 8mm home movies defy the video age
Much the same way as they defy
My memories of youth

Two Torpedo Sandwiches and Jackie DeShannon

We used to go for these long drives
My father and I
No destination – just long drives to nowhere
He spoke endlessly of his youth
I listened to each sliver of breath
Pink nosed cows in pastures fluttered by
The window of his large silver Chevy
We would always find a bar in a small town
A bar that served Torpedo sandwiches on crusty white rolls
And he would give me a quarter for the juke
Jackie DeShannon
What the world needs now
I played that old song on every juke I found

At the Seneca Restaurant – at Christmas lunch
My grandmother almost stopped giving me quarters
She knew what song I was going to play

But with my father it was always the same thing
Two Torpedo sandwiches; one beer and one coke
And he always gave me a quarter for the juke
And I played that old song – every time

What the world needs now is two torpedo sandwiches
And Jackie DeShannon and my father and an old Chevy

Summer is Upon Us

I heard there was a fire in the laundry room of my building last Tuesday
A dead white cat in the dumpster is not the best notice for next of kin

Standing in the dirty sunlight I watch for the mail carrier – discussing Elvis movies
The little guy swears Ann-Margaret is only in one – I say two – he’s the savant

His hair is perfect but the sides of his mustache don’t reach the sides of his mouth
It makes me itch – I haven’t combed my hair since last night and he doesn’t care

The old Mexican ice cream vendors are trying to tempt the high school girls who are
Trying to tempt the high school boys who tempt each other with hair gel and heroics

This would be the perfect time for a cigarette – a cigarette and a story about the old man
I walk back up the stairs empty handed – the mail isn’t coming but summer is upon us

Another Barstool Preacher

Another barstool preacher spits out bible verses
Between burps that reek of old stale beer
“Humble yourself, you bad motherfucker!
He shouts these words while he kneads my shoulder
He works my muscles like a punch-drunk corner man
On a low paying undercard at Caesar’s Palace
Only no one across the ring poses any threat to me tonight
This night that he is where I will be soon enough – or too soon
Strangled by the pain of something he can’t even comprehend
“I did three years in the penitentiary and I love the bible!
I learned to understand and love the bible”

Faith is what?
Faith is what you believe in
When you have no reason to believe
Faith is the answer to the question
That robs you of your sleep at night
So the barstool preacher spits His word into my face
He reminds me to be humble
I remind him to keep the faith
He offers me hope
I offer him a prayer
One prayer from one bad motherfucker

Old Men and Birds

Old men and birds
Have the best stories here
No empty rhetoric
Words or songs pour out
Of beaks and trembling mouths
Reliving those moments of glory
Like they could bring it all back home
Whenever they needed it

Old men and birds
Get ignored around here
No honest attraction
They live within us
They who have seen so much
They know all they have is each other
Like the friend to share secrets with
At times when you need them most

Old men and birds
Die terribly here
No evident losses
Flies buzz around them
The rotting carcasses
Reclining on the dirty sidewalk
Where they fell when they got too tired
And simply needed a rest