Tag Archives: mom

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

October 29, 2013

Her voice sounded like a pigeon playing an ancient cello on 63rd Street and May Avenue
At dusk on an autumn evening when hate was still an infant and innocence not yet a sin

She liked ballin’ the jack where she could stretch her loving arms straight out in space
But keep her knees pressed close together to preserve the last remnants of womanhood
And then you twist around and twist around with all of your might

She wrestled with mortality and lost more often than not – but she never backed down
She bargained with the saints and then she beat them with two queens and two jacks

Every book in her sacred room was open – she loved when the wind turned the pages
Every word was a nugget to be savored and treasured and shared with the hungry

She was truly known by few – but sincerely loved by all

The Seeker

For Nancy Lee
10/30/2013

I don’t remember asking for the rain – but I am glad it decided to come this afternoon
The day after the Seeker went on her final journey of discovery was the best time for it
The Seeker has been so far away for so long – now she is farther away from my body
The Seeker has been so far away for so long – now she is closer to my soul than ever

Then the rain came and it washed away anything that may have blemished a memory
Universal voices sing The Seeker’s praises as she skips down the road of her own making
There is a quartet of voices – who have created other voices – who will be her legacy
This is more than The Seeker asked for but – somehow – less than she deserves

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

The Ragman’s Voice

Crows the size of dogs
Walk brazenly down my alley
The lifeless limbs of small children
Dangle from their razored beaks
Just below their dangerous colorless eyeballs

The dense morning air informs
A violently suffocating day
The barbarous sun reflecting off
The faded pavement offers no comfort

The guttural grumble of distant thunder
Hangs over the shingled rooftops
A tattered shroud

The ragman’s voice cuts through
The open spaces void of sound
His sing-song cadence draws the women out

The plastic-heeled-vinyl-strapped sandals
Crack and pop against the wooden steps
The hair on their fragile heads
Is matted down with sweat and baby food
Mouths painted – eyes red

The ragman takes their remnants
Memories of their dingy lives
He heaps them up onto his battered old cart

The women scurry like panicked roaches
Back into their linoleum and tile kitchens
Leaving the Ragman’s voice
To sing his simple song