Friday Prose: The Brooklyn I Knew

dear friends, i thought i might use Friday to revive some of the stories i wrote in prose, before embarking on this poetic journey of mine.

i wrote these to to be read concurrently, each story informs the next, and the events seem unrelated until the end. it’s how it unfolded, as i lived it back in the 60′ and 70′ in Bushwick, Brooklyn. two of these are very early reposts, the last story was never posted and is quite long so it will be posted in two or three parts.

please don’t feel compelled to read these on your busy Friday morning, feel free to if you want to read them at all to take them into the weekend. thank you and i hope you enjoy them.

if you need to catch up….
I Was a Poor, Pimpled, Uncool Sulker.
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thCA0DQTR5


The Parking Space

I would always listen for the click, the turn of the key and what resulted next, the sound that crashed and echoed for miles off the close canyon walls of this neighborhood every morning was the unique roar of American auto manufacturing in it’s heyday, the 425 cubic inch muscle car horsepower rumble that put me right square in the mouth of a mechanical lion, as it roared from deep within it’s empty belly.

Rhhhhuuuurrrmmmm, rhuuurrmm, rhhhhuuuurrrmmmm!

each time he gently pressured the accelerator to get the oil flowing slowly through all eight cylinders. He would sit in the car for the ten or so minutes it took for the engine to calm itself down. With the hood up and his driver’s door opened wide into the street, one foot planted on the asphalt and his beefy hand cupping the chrome eight ball that topped the shifter, Tony waited. He listened intently with his right ear cocked towards the dashboard glancing occasionaly at the rear view mirror for any sign of white, oil burning exhaust.

Sitting in the vinyl black bucket seat, Tony listened and waited for the engine to start it’s eventual purr as nonchalantly as you and I would blink our eyes, as though starting up a car this way at 7:15 in the morning was the most natural thing in the world.

He was oblivious, or at least it seemed that way.

Tony never looked around as he slowly went through his rehearsed routine, never met anyone’s gaze and he was never, ever in a hurry. The old women with their heads down, their worn faces covered by black kerchiefs busy scrubbing stains off the sidewalks, were equally nonplussed. I couldn’t vouch for the rest of the neighborhood who were woken up this way every single morning, whether they liked it or not.

Work days, Saturdays or Sundays were all the same to Tony.

And that’s just how it was.

It never crossed my mind to cover my ears, though I probably should have, the decibel level was that toxic. And it didn’t take long for this thirteen year old to fall in love with the sight, sound and smell of that black ’67 Chevy Nova, the chromed engine and the smell of the exhaust. I rushed through my bowl of Frosted Flakes every morning just to make sure I was there in my usual spot, when Tony turned the key.

My dad owned a Texaco station and was a master mechanic, so I’d seen my fair share of cars growing up but this car was no ordinary mother go to the marketmobile or dad’s everyday, train station driver.

No, not even close, not by a long shot.

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This car was infinite black and the mirror finish in the triple lacquered paint was so perfect, I could see my pimpled reflection from the top of the stoop where I sat. On the hood were two chrome circles, with small horseshoe clasps for little padlocks that were meticulously unlocked, without leaving even a partial fingerprint on the dustless, black paint finish. In the low morning sun, looking into the engine compartment once the hood was raised, was like stealing a peek of a solar eclipse.

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People might have and very quietly mumbled curses under their breath as Tony carefully let the hood down and drove away, but they didn’t let anyone but trusted family members hear the complaint because the word on the street whispered, that Tony was connected. He knew a guy who knew a guy, who’s brother was a made man. The quiet rumours then morphed into street corner legend, an unverifiable truth that Tony himself was a made man, attached somehow and no one knew exactly how, to the Mob.

And in this tight knit, everyone could see and hear what you were doing when you did it neighborhood, aye fhugettaboutit, that’s all you really needed to know to stay healthy and vertical.

Everyday and all day, that coveted parking space ramained empty, until Tony arrived back home from whatever it was that he did. No one ever parked there, even as you could see every parking space taken as far as your eyes could focus, along the up and down streets that were choked with parked cars.

That spot remained reserved and it was right in front of my stoop.

One hapless visitor from Queens unfamiliar with the rules, made the mistake of waving off all the warnings, arrogantly parking his Pontiac sedan where it should never have been. The informed knew what would happen and word got around the neighborhood pretty quick. It always did. We were all silent witnesses by late afternoon as crowds gathered throughout the day, bunched on stoops and poking out of windows. We waited for the roar to be heard from blocks away, the echoes of that engine that always signaled Tony’s return.

He drove up, stopped and returned a few short minutes later.

He parked his car right in the middle of the street, doors swung open and men piled out in wool knit shirts and shiny black shoes. Out of the trunk came bats, crowbars and sledge hammers and they proceeded to pummel that Pontiac into a shattered steel and glass corpse, as Tony sat waiting in his black bucket seat.

The Pontiac was unrecognizeable, rendered undriveable.

When they were finally finished, they all silently slithered back into Tony’s black ’67 Chevy Nova, rhhhhuuuurrrmmmm, and just very slowly drove away, leaving a message for the neighborhood to consider. That violent display, finally and undeniably verified all the whispered rumours about Tony, and during the next decade that i lived on that block, no one ever dared park there again.

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Written April 2012, edited March 2013

Friday Prose: The Brooklyn I Knew

dear friends, i thought i might use Friday to revive some of the stories i wrote in prose, before embarking on this poetic journey of mine. my eyes have difficulty reading prose these days, my own included and i find myself curiously detached from these stories i once felt so invested in. (i’m not sure why that is )

i wrote these to to be read concurrently, each story informs the next, and the events seem unrelated until the end. it’s how it unfolded, as i lived it back in the 60′ and 70′ in Bushwick, Brooklyn. two of these are very early reposts, the last story was never posted and is quite long so it will be posted in two parts.

please don’t feel compelled to read these on your busy Friday morning, feel free to if you want to read them at all to take them into the weekend. thank you and i hope you enjoy them.
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thCA0DQTR5
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I Was a Poor, Pimpled, Uncool Sulker.
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My new neighborhood bore no resemblance to the manicured fenceless grassed yards, single family house 2 cars in every driveway, ethnicity free Long Island town where I spent the first 12 years of my life. There were languages here and English spoken thick with Italian and German accents by old, crabby grey haired woman in black mourning dresses and rolled down black stockings who promptly at 7am bent at the hip, were scrubbing their stoops and sidewalks in front of their buildings.

Everyday and all day delivery trucks roared down the narrow one way, steamy asphalt streets blaring their big horns, belching exhaust and rustling litter along the curbs, barely missing kids darting between parked cars chasing balls and playing tag. Young mothers pushed big wheeled baby carriages and old ladies lugged shopping carts, choking the already narrow sidewalks. Heavy doors slammed behind people slithering past other people bunched on stairways listening to songs scratched out on small transistor radios.

Like a gargoyle I watched all the comings and goings, the backwards and forwards of incessant car and human traffic, scared of everything that moved. Unfortunately for me, absolutely nothing stood still on this unfamiliar Brooklyn street, this continuous canyon wall of four story buildings that swallowed whatever thankful breeze there might have been, choking everything but the noise, the noise that never stopped.

This was not a particularly human friendly environment, there were no trees along the straight line of streets that you could view for miles.

Not a single one.

The small concrete ‘yards’ that fronted the four story, continously connected buildings on either side of the stoop were just wide enough for four steel garbage cans, the other side was empty. That empty space was handy when it snowed but not for much else except wind blown leaves and garbage, it was walled off from the sidewalk by thick, foreboding wrought iron black painted fencing. Each building had their own scrolled designs, each topped by tri corner spears that if you accidently rubbed the palm of your hand against a tip you’d get a nasty scrape for your stupidity, as intended. The stoops were lined on either side by wrought iron railings, uncomfortably wide for a kids hand.
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My tomboy sister found this out the hard way, slipping off one the railings monkey climbing, losing her balance she was impaled on one of the spears. Folded and in shocked silence she lay there motionless as adults came to help but the aid proved difficult, the fences were over four feet high and it was impossible to remove her without causing further damage. Some wooden milk crates were found, placed front and back to gain leverage and she was eventually lifted off.

She was lucky, she needed only a few stitches to repair the three inch tear in her belly.

I was a poor pimpled uncool sulker at 13, an emotionally mixed up mess of a kid spending the first weeks after school ended that year in ’68, sitting alone on the top step of the 10 foot high stoop to my building at 232 Jefferson Street scrunched in the shadowed corner of the doorway, day after airless day. I sat in the same spot and in the same position, long arms looped around my legs, acned face resting between my knees just hoping that no one would notice and praying hard to be ignored.

I sat, shaken to the core scared; yeah, divorce does that to a kid.

From my perspective the best place to take all this in was from my third floor window. It felt safe there hidden behind the flimsy white curtains and the view from that vantage point allowed me to eventually recognize daily patterns, things people did each day. I was thankful perched there, thankful that at least something began to make some sense because so much had changed so quickly for this kid.

Divorce is a tragically shared family trauma and my mom, desperate for some privacy of her own in our cramped railroad style apartment filled with cheap mismatched Salvation Army furniture, decided that I needed to be outside, you know to soak up some sun and meet some other nice kids my age.

So of course I sat there on the stoop alone for weeks.
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Written April 2012, edited March 2013

repost Friday

dear friends…
because i don’t post on Friday and for
the benefit of my many new friends,
i thought i would dig into the archives.
this was my fourth poem after joining
20 Lines in April, it holds a special
place in my heart because it was the
first time a poem was inspired from
hearing a song for the first time.
thank you all so much *smiles*

many thanks to Sky Vani,
for sharing this song and beautiful video.
play it as a soundtrack, the words follow the tempo.
hope you::::enjoy::::
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her last page
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as early as her day begins, it ends
a sad memoir echoes in an empty room,
and she breezes
through her motions

…without a care in this world.
as if her love never really ended
wrote the diary,
the last page.

wide cupped latte’,
a quick croissant
and her habitual daily stroll
to every place they ever met.

she’s hoping without a prayer,
he’ll be sitting there as always
in his favorite,
corner chair.
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she chooses spools of woven thread
from the French village mercerie.
…that suggestive red dress
he always loved,

and it’s noticeable tear.
as if life never did really end
wrote the diary,
her last page.
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written April 21 2013
and submitted to 20 Lines A Day
prose and poetry challenge for April

tiptoe

dear new friends and old,
we are leaving in a few hours to spend
some time with family and to continue our
labor of love, restoring the 100 year old
house on our farm. i’ll be back on Tuesday,
in the meantime i thought i would repost this
poem, my second after joining 20 Lines A Day
in April.

thank you all for your continued and constant
encouragement, it means so very much to me.

if it weren’t for all of you, i wouldn’t be writing
this poetry of mine. please know what a gift you
have given me, that some days i still can’t believe
this is my blog, these are my words and you all,
are my friends.

thank you, so very much,
{{{ h u g s }}} and *smiles* to you all

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tiptoe.
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th

Amid this winter’s grey mist grip
our April mocks her Spring impression.
Rush hour red lights stop and start,
frustrated and my happened glance at

a waif like girl no more than nine,
she’s mouthing words of imagined rhyme.
I watch her whispering monologues
as she tiptoes boulders in the park.

Pure innocence her soft protection
from cruel worlds I suffer much too well.
I mouthed my thank you to the waif
and she tiptoed boulders until dark.
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written April 14 2013
submitted to 20 Lines A Day
prose and poetry challenge for April

Through

Setting the Dark on Fire

Through that night

and from across a room

Through crowded strangers

and all my awkward shyness

Through every hurt remembered

and scattering debris of aborted plans

Through a slow death in every unloved soul

and that night, that miracle night

Through our infinity of eyes

and every hum and flutter

Through faith rewarded

and there was you

and every night

there was you

Who Could Know Then

I wrote this as a surprise gift to my wife on our 10th anniversary of the day we met. This was the first ‘poetic/stream of conciousness piece i ever wrote and the first listening to music.

imho, it reads better with the music as a soundtrack, so click the
song and start reading nice and s l o w, the second refrain, the crescendo should then coincide with the last paragraph.
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On Tuesday the ’79 Ford flatbed pick up truck will be carefully driven up the narrow steel ramps and onto the trailer, the rented trailer attached to a U-Haul box van for the long awaited and well deserved trip from Chicago to rural Indiana, the final leg in the long journey to it’s rightful place, the 100 acre family farm.

How could anyone have possibly predicted that this sturdy old truck, that never quit even in the worst cold Chicago could conjure up, that he found on the front line of a local gas station fifteen years ago with a handmade ‘for sale’ sign taped to the windshield, the note written by a thin, weathered man who bought this truck new in 1979, an Iowan farmer who used it daily hauling crops, who needed to sell it sadly because times were tough, who could have known then that this working farm truck would now go back to the soil where it once started its noble life?

Who could know then that this old blue truck would evoke so many memories in her, the farm where she spent so many of her childhood summers, where she would walk the acres holding hands with her playful grandpa Paps tending his peony crop, lose herself for endless hours in the cavernous, dusty hay filled barn, chase chickens around the small wood framed house, help her Grams churn homemade ice cream served with Saltines and end those days on the back of Paps Ford flatbed truck piled with hay and crowded with giggling cousins for a slow, bumpy ride on the gravel road into town?

Who could know then it would spark a romance between a most unlikely couple, she’s barely over five feet tall, he’s six two and lanky, her skin pale and perfect, his a few shades darker, marked, grey eyes, hers the warmest brown, she was Kentucky sweet, engaging and talkative, he’s the king of one liners, an ex New Yorker, he luckily made it out of high school, she has a graduate degree and more friends than any one person should, he’s a loner, she taught violin in the same university for twenty years, he was self employed forever chasing dreams, she was the lead singer in a rock band, he will always be anxious in a crowd of strangers, she had 2 healthy parents, the family reunions hosted hundreds, he had neither and who could know then that she had almost given up all hope of ever finding anyone?

Is it ever too late?

Who could know then as he watched her drive away after a chance meeting that they would ever meet again, he only had scant clues, driving night after night through so many unfamiliar neighborhoods, dark streets and darker alleys, driving in the Ford pick up searching, hoping to find her dented little red Honda parked somewhere and finally, finally on that unusually cool and clear night in May under so many close stars he did find it, leaving his own hand written note on the windshield, hoping?

Who could know then that this ’79 Ford pickup truck, this four wheeled piece of steel with all its myriad moving parts, would become a symbol of their dedication to each other in the face of some difficult times, a steel badge of their unshakeable loyalty, their tender ten year journey together, who could know then that the universe, with all it’s myriad moving parts would extend it’s gentle hand and grant such a random act of kindness?
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And who would want to?
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 photo thefarm020.jpg

fawn

whatever you fear, whatever you hide,
whatever you carry deep inside
there’s something more than this
October Project

thCAL9B9PJ

on that late lit afternoon amidst the blaring horns sirens rolling steel and rubber of every constant rush hour this city only knows, he saw her now sitting folded into the corner of a familiar doorway the burgundy shroud resting deep into her knees that impossible smallness an almost prayer like silent plea her meditation wishing this world would disappear from view. and as he always did walking his young golden retriever Scout a dog so serene he’d never heard him make a single sound, the closer to this little person in a doorway by itself the bustling street echos ending another ambivalent big city day, and his concern alarm now heightened wondering why this any child was left so alone, his scan for parents but found none.

closer now and details unfold black ballet slippers to black anklet socks delicately edged tiny white lace frill slim cranberry pants, then that ankle bracelet! …. it’s chain spun so finely crafted not by our any human hands sun speaking to each tiny charm glistening. …and hesitant now not ever wanting to intrude, Scout answered his questions a gentle nose nudging her knee as all good dogs will,

‘oh im so sorry, he has to say hello to everyone’,

and the slowest of motions the shroud lifted its head as if in a slumber waking finally eyes to eyes nose to Scout’s nose her hands instinctively moving involuntarily they found his golden jowls, standing motionless accepting her slow fingers moving a golden fur caress, the shroud so deep he could not yet see her face. and in a ‘time will forever stand still moment’ forever be etched in his memory, the burgundy shroud slowly lifted falling back revealing her pale skin colored paler by the blazing embers of the extinguishing afternoon sun this deliberate ray reaching her darkened corner of the doorway,

his concern its own slow fade seeing her narrow face she was no child after all, and in human years twenty something but as in the swift glint of brown in her so grateful eyes raising to meet the sun… a whiteness then the infinity white of everything all knowing and all our kindness in every universe that ever lived, hers a timeless and slow smile reply,

‘yes…he does.’

he stood there letting this moment live as long as she wanted Scout turned to leave he followed and as so many of us his slow walk away was followed in doubt, a disbelief that this was not just a dream awake so double quickstepping around the block with Scout trailing. maybe to relive a moment that should not require repeating …….maybe to speak another word that didn’t need speaking, arriving as the sun had already fallen behind every building in its way the doorway now darkened and she was gone.

whatever you love, whatever you give,
whatever you think you need to live
there’s something more than this
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fawn

whatever you fear, whatever you hide,
whatever you carry deep inside
there’s something more than this
October Project

thCAL9B9PJ

on that late lit afternoon amidst the blaring horns sirens rolling steel and rubber of every constant rush hour this city only knows, he saw her now sitting folded into the corner of a familiar doorway the burgundy shroud resting deep into her knees that impossible smallness an almost prayer like silent plea her meditation wishing this world would disappear from view. and as he always did walking his young golden retriever Scout a dog so serene he’d never heard him make a single sound, the closer to this little person in a doorway by itself the bustling street echos ending another ambivalent big city day, and his concern alarm now heightened wondering why this any child was left so alone, his scan for parents but found none.

closer now and details unfold black ballet slippers to black anklet socks delicately edged tiny white lace frill slim cranberry pants, then that ankle bracelet! …. it’s chain spun so finely crafted not by our any human hands sun speaking to each tiny charm glistening. …and hesitant now not ever wanting to intrude, Scout answered his questions a gentle nose nudging her knee as all good dogs will,

‘oh im so sorry, he has to say hello to everyone’,

and the slowest of motions the shroud lifted its head as if in a slumber waking finally eyes to eyes nose to Scout’s nose her hands instinctively moving involuntarily they found his golden jowls, standing motionless accepting her slow fingers moving a golden fur caress, the shroud so deep he could not yet see her face. and in a ‘time will forever stand still moment’ forever be etched in his memory, the burgundy shroud slowly lifted falling back revealing her pale skin colored paler by the blazing embers of the extinguishing afternoon sun this deliberate ray reaching her darkened corner of the doorway,

his concern its own slow fade seeing her narrow face she was no child after all, and in human years twenty something but as in the swift glint of brown in her so grateful eyes raising to meet the sun… a whiteness then the infinity white of everything all knowing and all our kindness in every universe that ever lived, hers a timeless and slow smile reply,

‘yes…he does.’

he stood there letting this moment live as long as she wanted Scout turned to leave he followed and as so many of us his slow walk away was followed in doubt, a disbelief that this was not just a dream awake so double quickstepping around the block with Scout trailing. maybe to relive a moment that should not require repeating …….maybe to speak another word that didn’t need speaking, arriving as the sun had already fallen behind every building in its way the doorway now darkened and she was gone.

whatever you love, whatever you give,
whatever you think you need to live
there’s something more than this
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gentle brush

thCA1S0L72

wash warm hues, gentle brush

across a heart forgotten.

it’s soft caress no sadness lingers

renew it’s every fray and tear.

create a masterpiece, my lovely

erase all coloring of fear.

nuance streamed light and shadows

our layered texture, sweet romance.

and devote each waking minute

as Monet with Lily Pads.

written April 2013
submitted to 20 Lines A Day
prose and poetry challenge for April
http://anexerciseindiscipline.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=17836&action=edit&message=6&postpost=v2

reach me

thCA1FLI0V

through

all of my life

i’ve hid inside shadows,

never willing to believe there

was someone like you to

reach me.
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please,

don’t give up on

who you think you’ve found.

because it’s you,

and only you

will ever

find

me.

written April 15 2013
submitted to 20 Lines A Day
prose and poetry challenge for April