|Oct/Nov 2018 Poetry Special Feature|
They took down the tenement
I was a child in today.
We were all at the demolition—
the adults slouched in lawn chairs
and shrouded in a haze of Lucky Strikes,
Viceroys, and Pall Malls.
They guzzled coffee by the gallon
and shared gossip and good-natured lies
in whispery voices so indistinct
it seemed they must be speaking of events
of great moment.
The kids ran the edge of supervision
reined in by an occasional
"Don't hit, Johnny,"
"Gloria, stop crying long enough to catch a breath."
My best friend, Marvin, was "it" in red light green light.
Girls played hopscotch and jumped rope
and my long dead brother, a waif in short pants,
was already ogling the pretty girl from 4A
who was just old enough
to be checking her reflection in a mirror
The Kleins strolled by arm and arm.
My mom and I would visit them
on Sundays for tea and radio concerts
from Carnegie Hall.
And the couple that lived above us
with their four oversized children
I knew collectively as Godzilla.
I'd almost forgotten how happy we were there.
We demanded so little of place,
so much of home.
If we lacked heat in winter,
if it was too hot in summer,
we crawled out on the fire escape
and pretended to be camping.
I shook off the apparition
And stood in the rain
dripping from the blue-black sky
hands deep in the pockets
of my old corduroy coat
patchy gray hair lapping my collar.
Neither loud nor dramatic—
the building collapsed with a sigh—
the debris settling in on itself.
I didn't stay to watch them
haul it away.