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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