Saturday, August 3, 2013

Passaic Street Blues


Rows of trees
Line 8th Street
Planted by hands
Not familiar
With this soil,
Living four families
in two room
cold water flats,
a half centuries
dead leaves falling
at our feet as
we walk passed
the house Hot Lips
lived in
before she made TV
her picture in every
Polish store
As prominent
As the Virgin Mary’s,
Local taverns
Holding parties
To celebrate even
The reruns,
This being 1989
And her father
Already two years
In the grave
Leaving one
Whole floor
Of her house vacant
A gap even the trees
Can’t fill,
Though the prostitutes
Stroll by it
With the same reverence
The nuns hold
Passing a church,
Mumbling about
“our Loretta,”
With some even
Remembering those
Rare days when
She came to visit
Her family,
Surrounded by
And body guards,
Staring down
The line of trees
As if suspicious
Even of the changing leaves


They screech
At the lightest thing
At mice crawling
Under the door,
The wind rattling
Panes of glass,
One spirit so small
They could crush it
Between forefinger
And thumb
And not burn a calorie,
While no one
Even remotely
Understands the wind.
Fear imprinted
On their genes,
Panicking over
The inevitable call of death,
Calculating when
And if
The cancer gets them,
While leaping up
With each squeak
The mouse makes
As if these are one
In the same.


What do you give
A dying man
When life have
Brought him down
For the final count,
Bed pans banging
Instead of the boxing bell,
Strangers prodding each
Hole to find out
Where the disease
All started,
Instruments hooked
Into him to
Calculate when
The final moment
Odd faces with
Raised brows
Watching for
When that spirit
Rises out of him,
As if to feed,
And he refusing
To let go,
Not wanting to
Give in,
And give them
The satisfaction
Of knowing
He got beat
By blows from
The inside out,
An opponent
With no boxing gloves
Only the ability
To multiply
In parts of him
He can’t see.


We flock like geese
When we see it come
Clutching our rosary beads
Against what we can’t see,
Stressed to death
In fear of the cold,
This life the only life
Any of us know,
Tempting fate
But never so far as
To give up faith,
Even when the clock tick
Tells us what the doctor
Won’t, but we guess
And huddle
And hope for the best,
Wondering about the sleep
That comes after a long
Or even short life
And what we might
Wake up to
As this thing
Eats at us,
Will the world
Be green,
The way spring is
After winter,
And will we in our
Sleep feel not cold
Or hard or lonely,
But warm, and immune
To passing time?


She was the lady
In the health food store
We flocked to
For immorality,
That shop a hop
Skip and jump
From Passaic Street
As she peddled
Vitamins and herbs
The way Marcus Welby
Did pain pills,
A sure scenario for
Disaster we thought
Even before
Her grieved husband
Informed us
About the surgery
In the brain
No herb could reach,
As he shuffled
Among the rows of
Bottles out of which
He could find
No magical cure,
For her
Or for the loss he felt
When he thought
They’d found
Nirvana in a bottle,
Now, all he sees in each
Is the image of his dead
Wife, Mary,
The rosary beads
She kept behind
The register
She called
Her insurance policy,
He didn’t know
How to cash in.

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