Thursday, June 16, 2011


“The true Paradises are the paradises we have lost.”
Marcel Proust

“Nicky Eyes”,
so-called for his horn rimmed glasses.
He is my friend Pauli’s father.
The family that lived next door
on Euclid Avenue, in Brooklyn.

“Pete the Killer” was also a neighbor.
Now, I don’t know if Pete killed anyone,
he was just a sharp dresser.
You know, those elongated collars
on his Chinese laundered shirts.

My father also had a nick-name,
“Tony Surf and Turf.”
He made money in fish.
He lost money on horses.

Euclid Avenue in the Fifties,
Italian and Jewish.

In the Sixties they would build “projects.”
The neighborhood would die
a slow and agonizing death.

The old Sicilians were opera and bocce.
My generation was Rock n’ roll and baseball,
a uniquely American generation-gap.

We had one thing in common,
the church that they built, “Santa Fortunata.”
Whose the primary tongues were Italian and Latin.

Stained glass windows with familiar family names.
A Sanctum sanctorum for us all.

And the Jews, with forearm tattoos,
tough and cynical and world-weary,
who found, like the Sicilians,
a paradise of struggles on Euclid Avenue.

On hot nights families would
congregate on stoops.

Stoop-speak, as a fugue
of English and Yiddish and Sicilian
and, of course, Brooklynese.

To cool off in the summer we went
to the Kinema theater on Pitkin Avenue.
Everybody called the bleached-blonde
young guy, who managed the theater,
a “flaming faggot”,
but he was tolerated by our liberal
and simpatico views of the world.

Brooklyn: everyone had a nick-name.

Anyway, me and Pauli,
came out of the apartment
at the same time.
Nicky Eyes,
a name I never called him,
he was Uncle Nick to me,
was waiting at curb side.


Thursday, June 9, 2011



I am Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.
Not really.
My summer reading brought me to
mid-nineteenth century America

I want to be Tom,
with a pocket-ful of trinkets,
hood-winking my friends
into doing my chores.

I want to be Huck,
and raft the Mississippi
living one adventure after another.

So, in mid-twentieth century America,
I set out on my own journey.
Destination: Chinatown.
Objective: Fireworks.
My raft: The A-train.

Walking aimlessly through
the sweated streets of Canal, Elizabeth,
the Bowery.
Familiar sights and sounds and smells
of Little Italy, mixed with the exotic air
of Chinatown.

Strangers and strange places encountered.
But, I finally get what I came for: Fireworks.

My friends ask, “Tom, where were you?”
My parents ask, “Huck, Where have you been all day?”

I go to bed, reliving the adventures
of Tom and Huck.

4th OF JULY (DAY 2)

Cherry Bombs laid fuse to orb in red box.
Finger-losing faux-Cherries,
whose singular blast reverberates
through the physical and spiritual self.


These simple instructions were rarely followed.
These cherries were not sedentary objects.


Thrown against a wall, into a garbage can,
and, sometimes, down a gutter sewer.

But, oh man, the noise, the light,
this singular event, this celebration.

JULY 5TH (American dream)

Up early, to go with my father to his fish store,
a place where old-world Sicily and Russia meet
on Amboy Street in Brooklyn.

The store with its saw-dust on the floor,
absorbing light as a backdrop
to the silvery reflections of fish on-ice
and the odor of shredded wood and sea-water.

Kosher butcher is on other side of the store.
Live poultry in back storage area,
wafting sounds and smells
into the main store.

Sons of the Fishman, and sons of the Butcher
play and work in this house of lively creatures,
alien to our everyday lives on Brooklyn streets.

None would follow in their fathers’
ancient trade.