Verse & Prose
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Youth Shows But Half
From where I’d sit on the porch nights, I could see everything. They’d move from room to room like cats. One would retreat, the other would follow, then they’d switch – arms waving, faces turning red. Pretty soon I’d hear their voices, loud enough to carry through the windows and clear across the street. Then, if it was a real bad one, things would start flying: lamps and glasses and the like. Somehow with all the broken windows they replaced, they never did manage to put up curtains.
I used to call them the Richters. Nan said it wasn’t right to make light of other people’s troubles. But it just happened to come out one night, what must have been three or four months after they moved in. By then we’d seen it happen enough times not to be surprised anymore, but still not so many that we’d lost interest. Nan had brought some iced tea out to the porch and sat down next to me on the loveseat. It was a balmy summer night, with a breeze to make the trees out front whisper. We sat sipping the iced tea, not saying much as is our habit. We no longer needed to say much, Nan and me, to get by.
Then they started up. This time it was her chasing after him. From the living room to the kitchen, upstairs to where we couldn’t follow them, and then back down. I felt Nan tense up next to me, waiting. She would wait for the worst, that was Nan. Forty years of sitting beside someone at movies, theatre plays and the like, it’ll teach you a lot about a person’s tendencies. Nan would tense up and wait for the worst. That night, though, it seemed to pass quickly. Shortly they went upstairs and the lights went out.
“That looked to be about a four on the Richter scale,” I said then, relieved to feel Nan’s body relax into mine. And we both let out a little chuckle. So from then on they were the Richters, even though I said it without a bit of malice. It wasn’t long before we grew accustomed to them, and they became a feature of the landscape, like any other. Volatile perhaps, but familiar, like a volcano that smokes and spews from time to time but that we otherwise took for granted...
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Tuesday, August 21, 2007
The Thing About Slim
The thing about Slim was, he had no shot. Not that it mattered, really. Slim was such a good ballplayer, he almost didnít need one. He could dribble through rush hour traffic with his eyes closed, and thread the needle with a pass while he was counting change. And talk. Slim could talk. Slim couldíve shown up at courtside in a wheelchair and talked his way into a game, Iím sure of it. He had this way of putting you at ease, a patter that snuck up on you and drew you in. When Slim was talking to you, you felt special. Like you were part of a private conspiracy that only you and him knew about. The two of you against the world.
How else could you explain him hanging around at all? Varmont was an exclusive private school on the Upper East Side, all limestone and green ivy. Which just about says it all about the place: white and rich. And even though the playground we used was a public facility, Varmont had exclusive access to it during school hours by special arrangement with the City. So if anyone had complained about Slim, he wouldíve been gone. If it seems farfetched that someone might have complained, consider this: until Slim started coming by, I was the closest thing to a streetkid they had there.
I was a scholarship baby from Brooklyn, easily the toughest kid in the school. This meant primarily that Iíd been listening to rap music since before 1980, and that Iíd given Dexter Tillman Chase the IVth a black eye in the ninth grade for calling me a Jew-boy. Nobody being particularly fond of Dexter Tillman Chase the IVth, I was quickly welcomed the way fresh air usually is. Having made a place for myself, I soon came to feel comfortable in it. I did well enough to renew my scholarship each year (though I was no Einstein), and was captaining the basketball team as a junior.
But Slim, he mightíve been from another planet for all the cloistered world of Varmont knew. I still remember the first time he came by to play...
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Wednesday, July 25, 2007
l.a. winter blues (sonnet)
dear dad, i'm in los angeles. it's not
as warm as you would think. the sky is one
big cloud all day, and nights, i haven't got
a chance against the damp. without the sun
to heat things up, my bones get stiff. you'll laugh
at me, i know, and say i'm being too
dramatic (what with me not even half
your age) but still, i feel the years accu-
mulating. tell me, dad. i wonder if
it gets a little easier with time?
by now i know the clouds are bound to lift,
but is there more than just the endless climb?
i wouldn't think to ask, i'm sure, if only
the sky were not so grey and me so lonely.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
the passion of st. john the baptist (sonnet)
soon after salome had finished dancing
and john the baptist knew this world no more,
a servant of the king who'd been romancing
a queen's maid stared upon the littered floor.
before his feet the head of the baptizer
still fed a slow-expanding crimson pool.
the servant knew at once he'd be no wiser
for witnessing a spectacle so cruel.
the prophet's eyes recalled those of his lover,
though gazing out from an extinguished soul.
'i'd pay as much,' he thought, 'if she'd uncover
the seventh veil. but whose the head t'would roll?'
then kneeling to the floor began to clean
the blood while dreaming of the maid, his queen.
Sunday, July 1, 2007
one-fifty-two (pacheco pass)
these are only words
that brush the face
of the wildgrass
like rippling waves
no different from the road
racing past the picture-
no different from all that
passes for memory
the radio lets go its grasp
of the fm broadcast
just as i let go my grasp
of this world
there is a good chance
none of these words ever
funny the car clings
stubbornly to the road
Friday, June 22, 2007
i finally left l.a.
when the smog got too thick.
it was all my fault,
of course: the smog