Friday, June 28, 2013

Poems from my old hood


News from the wire is always hot
Filled with scalding phrases
About terrorist’s plots

Names, places, events
Rattled from the tv screen
Or spit out in newsprint ink
Like blood

Droning on to keep the pets company
Or folded under the litter
To keep the cat’s pan dry.


City hall’s windows
Look out on a fractured city
Tatters of once great buildings
Blowing in ashes of convenient fires
Redevelopers knocking on every door
Like a social disease
Asking poor and old if they want to sell
A new age of door to door salesman
Selling bullshit instead of brushes
As cold, indifferent political people
Look on as if already statues
Shoulders for people to cry on
And pigeons to poop on
Providing shadowy relief to
Bag ladies driven out of their homes
By eminent domain and outrageous taxes,
Fire the last resort
A modern day urban renewal
Plowing poor to make way for rich
Like Panzer tanks
Igniting the embers of the near dying
Leaving ashes in their wake.


They stand outside as you enter the clinic
Taunting you as murderer,
Their words cutting deeper than  
The doctor’s knife ever does

You mind filled with the bending spectacles
The cool fingers probing
As the cold eyes stare up at you, asking:
“Are you sure this is what you want?”

“They don’t teach these procedures
In medical school any more,”
The doctor says, as his unsympathetic hands
Maneuvering you onto the chilly metal table,
Yanking your legs apart

“Are you sure this is what you want?
Have you thought about the consequences?”
He and others ask again and again
As if you could go home the same, unaltered
And not face consequences equally bad.

Their smart hands divide you,
Driving their sharp instruments deep into you vital statistics,
Until finally, they tell you they’re done
And send you home bleeding,
A red bandage between your legs

A cloth that swishes, rubbing at the missing pieces
Your passport of stinking silence
Your hair stiff with the spray

But you do not go directly home
You wander the streets
Wondering who will whistle at you next
Or to where those at the clinic whisked
That excess three pounds of flesh
You left behind.

Was it a living thing? Did it die?
Or will it grow again outside of you,
You the Dr. Frankenstein
And it a haunting monster
Waiting to catch you unaware
At some future moment.


She hadn’t seen downtown
Since it had happened,
Her life torn from its roots
Like that girl from Kansas
A twister filled with jet fuel
Curling around the stem
Of the tower in which she worked
Snapping it off at the roots
Like a twig
She sent sprawling into a new world
Without dog or red shoes,
Always wishing in the back of her brain
She could go back,
Walking streets of a new world
Full of gaudy colors,
Store displays filled with
Golden trinkets,
Lights winking warning as her
As if another storm could strike
At any time,
Natives from every land
Walking, talking potential terrorists
On every side,
The old Italian section
Filled with cafes and flapping flags,
Thick with strangers
Whose languages she no longer understood
She now the alien
Seeking the wizard, the emerald city,
And the munchkins she knew as a child.


We live in the electric age
Despite atomic reactors
Boom boxes blasting on my bus from work
Or cars that pass my window
As I sleep,

The river top echoes
With the chant of rap
And back beat
So that even the fish can’t sleep

Gray haired veterans
From The Good War
Grumble at the disturbance of peace
Fish refusing to bite
For fear of being bitten
The sound leaving ripples
On the water’s surface
Speed boats would envy,
Some men seeking solitude
Wishing to be soldiers again
Just to create silence
With a few blasts of M1s

Vanquished is that romantic notion
Of reflective thought
While waiting out the fish with bobbing bait
Poor Wordsworth and his pious den
Drowned out by this disco din
No patient waves to wait out
Or lines of poetry to spout
No high brown pens scribbling
Between each tug of line
Just the rap racked out
Full of inner city torment
And ceaseless sound


the old corner stone said
sitting on the corner of the porch,
“never get married.”
His marble face
Perpetually pointed towards the sun,
Drawn from east to west each day
Before retiring,
An icon of the hood
Upon whom passing masses could rely
As well-built as a Depression-era
Public buildings
His deep eyes always glowing
With inner meaning
Like the light of a warm kitchen
After dark
Sometimes porch side
Littered with dusty tomes
He has read or wanted to read,
Or yellow pads filled with scribbled fact
Even he can no longer translate.
Always talking about his young
Days as that
“love em and leave em” sort,
more fearful of a broken heart
than a mugging or murder
wed to the same woman for
forty years now bearing up
under weekend visitations to her grave
his thick tongue licking at dry lips
each time her names comes up,
fists gripping tight the rocker arms
as the world would vanish
if he ever let go.


A strange face shows in the window
Its curious eye trying to focus
Through misted glass
Crime street rolling passed outside
With the flash of lights
All points of vision stained red
As if splashed by blood
He never feeling safe
Despite the door’s dead bolts
And barred windows,
Claiming the wrong body is in jail,
Cold airs sweeping under the door
To chill him, the scent of chemical companies, too,
Waiting for the mugger
Who has his name craved on the edge of a knife,
Yet shocked, when the red light of the police cars,
Like angels of death,
Stop outside his door


We make space reality
McKluen says
Trees stropping against the sun
As I jog
Like lines of poem,
Each inch a space
Filled with bright blue sky,
Stained red around its edges
Where factory smoke spreads
My self declared exile
Along the river side,
Where gull wings,
Flashes of rabbit,
And duck down floating
On the water surface
Lull me into thinking
I am somewhere else
Interrupted by blaring radios
At the bridge light
And honking horns
Of white boys buying drugs
In dark side of Passaic
No geese going south
For winter


The hard part
Is making green wood burn
The trusting ragged eyes
Turning sour for lack of hope.

I see their young faces
Everywhere, perched
In deserted doorways
Like newbie pigeons
Learning the ropes of the street
As if life here
Was a high wire act

I keep thinking of abandoned buildings
Their eyes bearing the look
Of darkened windows,
Full of barroom jest
And desperation.

Where do you come from?
What are you to do next?

No belt or shoe laces,
Each boy tripping over his own legs
Each step a prison sentence
Already predestined

Feeding the fast people
From the white faced city
Across the bridge
Stuffing their noses with snow
As they drive off

I feel empty and lonely
Walking in this place
Despite sidewalks thick with people
It is like walking though a city
Filled with ghosts.


You come at night
The wet air emphasizing
The sound of your step
A slick slosh against city pavement
That stirs even the cats
To my door
As if we could predict your coming
Some inner sense of knowing
Which all animals have
But we humans have forgotten,
A trust, a taken for granted feeling
A whisper of something
we fear to believe in
you walking these dark streets
me, waiting inside myself,
hoping you will actually

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