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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

NEW YORK CITY, Grapes of Wrath

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Grapes of Wrath,
An Adaptation of Sentiments from a WPA Document *

I am in New York City, but New York City,
It does not belong to me. You understand?
I am in New york City, but New york City is not in me.
What do I mean? Listen, I am from Chicago, Illinois.

Been in New York City for thirty-five years.
I am a New Yorker! You must understand!

Nope, nope, I probably confuse you.

What happens here? I have some examples.
Take the Second Avenue Subway. I doesn't exist!
City continues the project as long as I remember.
Seventh Avenue, midtown calls it Fashion Avenue;
Yet garment making has no role in today's American trade!

And the neighborhoods, they all look the same.
Look down the blocks. What do you see?
Corporate interests and franchise,
Dunkin' Donuts and big-time banks,
And, on almost every other corner,
Drug-store chains hawking their wares,
That's the story, the moms-and-pops, those stores,
Those stores are gone.

I notice more begging,
People seeking handouts more today than I ever recall.
The murder rate spikes. The poor kill the poor;

Children shoot other children.

And the City's once renowned middle class forced to flee,
I see a Great Migration,

A town left to ladies with big, diamond engagement rings,
And babies pushed in fancy perambulators.

By the way New York City's mayor,
He is the richest man in the state.

And you, you, too, you are not around much anymore.
How seldom I see you during the course of a year!
I am lonely without you.

I miss your not being home with me.
Nowadays, you go abroad

And, when you return, we go for dinner.
I only see you once and a while and then for a short time.

Ever notice all the lottery tickets which losers leave
On counter tops, and discard to the floor?
Seems many people hope to change their luck.

You follow? You understand what I mean?

I am in New York City, but New York City is not in me.

*I copied out these sentiments years ago. Richard Wright first recorded them from a street corner conversation in the late 1930s while he worked for the Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration. He later published them in 12 Million Black Voices. I took Wright's original street transcription and changed its tone and slant. Ultimately, I turned it into a personal love poem. SP

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


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I imagine that I must have surprised you,
What with your waiting game, your sport.
You exhausted me with your angler’s skill;
You had me hooked, long, on the line.
It was the lure, you,
I swallowed you whole.
I had not seen the great barb nestled in the fly,
Your beauty, I had become prey to it,
You must have imagined, you must have known,
How beautiful you seemed to me,
How you dazzled, your shimmer,
And I ate you right to the lead sinker.

I was your catch.

I believed every thing you said.

Who might have divined it?
Given the great tensile strength of your nylon-reel wire,
Hard to phantom that I could break it;
But I took a deep dive toward bottom,
Then with a fierce, five-foot leap
I broke above the water's surface.
A loud snap announced how taut had grown the tension.
At once boat and bait had lost all connection.

Who would have envisioned it?
I swim with that hook still puncturing my mouth.
Your fisherman’s string, its segment,
It still runs along side of me for at least a yard.

My injury, it hurts, and I shall have to bear it for life,
But I have set myself at liberty,
Free to travel world’s grand and open ocean seas.

And may I ask, again, take a moment, please, consider,
Who would ever believe my, this fish story!

But it is true; I have broken from you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

OH CHICAGO! Suite White City

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Suite White City,
May 2011, Rewrite

Chicago, I see you,
Though to be there, I must recover scenes,
Which now are very long ago, and what I share, here,
May be more dream, fiction, than actual historical event.

My life enfolds in pictures,
And revelry takes me from present-day circumstance,
The computer's screen and the key pad, to,
To lake-front parking, a lover’s lane,
Way down at east end of Foster Avenue,
At the time, I date the mother of my future son,
(It was early evening)
That woman with me is to become my first,
My one, my only wife, though
From her today I count over two decades, divorced.

We heard a galloping, thrashing noise,
And when we looked over the dashboard
And out the windshield, we saw
A man, he came from within the bushes,
A stranger, his demeanor was wild
And mayhem seemed his intent.
Clenched by two fists,
He held a great length of metal rod, a gaffing hook,
Then, from a big, an over-the-shoulder swing, bang!
He punctured the hood on my Dad’s white Chevrolet,
Which was a brand-new,1960, four-door, hard-top.

We survived the attack,
Intact, secure behind the doors and car in reverse,
We were lucky, I guess.


I remember the time in the high rise, near North Side,
Up on the 18th floor, where my buddy and I,
We knew this cop, yes, she was fine.
Oh my, Chicago, I remember her, the fond delight!
I liked the way she let her 9MM sleep with us.
(She placed it under the pillow.)
And her blues, her uniform with its badges,
And her leather belt and boots, whether she wore them,
Or when they were thrown, scattered and heaped.
A pile of clothes and accessories,
Her lengerie accented the top of the jumble;
I need not close my eyes to picture it.

The ensemble looked good at the bottom of the bed,

Piled-up on the rug of the bedroom floor.

Later, in the back seat of a Chicago,
Blue and white police cruiser,
I joined the convergence, while she drove,
And her partner sat shotgun, chasing the culprit,
All sirens and beacons blazing,
Down the back alleys, behind the bungalows, fast, 30mph,
Galvanized cans crashing, their lids off,
Flying, like saucers,
Garbage was everywhere all over the concrete.


River View, the amusement park, sat down the block
From my first high school, its Ferris Wheel dominated
That side of the North Branch of the Chicago River.
Readers, please, excuse the free thinking.
I leap here and hope to attain an insight and meaning,
Back to the time in 1893,
The year my great grandfather, John,
Came the one hundred miles from La Salle, Illinois,
To Chicago, he wanted to see the lights, the World's Fair,
The white city, magic, and when he returned, home,
He told tales about the town on Lake Michigan,
How great its marvels twenty-years after the Fire.

He, my great grandfather, he returned home
To the dark of the Illinois Valley, to gas-lit streets,
And when he told the family about alternating current,
The city ablaze in the middle of the night,
He ignited in my grandmother lust, she wanted a part,
She sought the grandeur; She was no longer happy at home,
What darkness, the narrow, a woman’s common lot,
The drudgery of hand laundry, the knowledge that,
As she often had openly lamented,
“Yes, I was born too soon.”

No easy task, ironing the household’s attire
With an implement heated atop a wood-fired stove,
Early to bed, early to arise, the great bore,
Small town life, it was said she would bed the devil
-- And many claimed she had -- she wanted out, escape.
She married my grandfather, an itinerant painter,
Who went from town to town painting church murals.

And following the grand cliche,
Grandpa drank his liquor as others might milk from a jar.
And he added to his cocktail’s already heady mix,
The family’s romance says, he had bad habit,
He moistened the stylist between his lips;
And we know, the paint those days had lead for its base.

Her husband, my grandfather promised my grandmother
Life, incandescent, excitement, magic,
And the possibility of dreams come true,
Right there on the flat lands off the shore of the Lake.
Remember, the new town rose up from the old,
Up from the ashes, why, it was a resurrection!

Please, was there not real truth to the story of the Whites,

Had they not been rescued? Was it not a miracle?
They had escaped from the massacre at Fort Dearborn.

My grandmother sought energy, electric, the moment,
She wanted a big-time story, no small-town idyll.
She desired city burning, burning bright, resplendent.

Oh Chicago! It is from you that I have my life!

Friday, June 10, 2011

FOOLISH LOVE, Rewrite, June 2011

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Rewrite, June 2011

Oh love, oh love, oh foolish love,
You make me feel as if
I had drunk a gallon of Jack Daniels --
That I am powerless and my life unmanageable.

Oh love, oh love, oh foolish love,
I fear that Grace might not restore my sanity.
I stay up nights and pine away;
Allow my will to run to self riot.

Oh love, oh love, oh foolish love,
Where did I go wrong?
How was I not able to see that your allure,
Your devilish witchery, would ruin whatever
The chance I once had had
To check my faults of character.

Oh love, oh love, oh foolish love,
My age, my length of years,
Was I too slow to figure the sum,
Had wisdom failed me, and rendered me prey
A hundred times to the same old line?

You have broken my heart,
Enfeebled my muscles,
And many bones in my body ache.
You have cut my life to the quick.

The pain you cause, I know, I know!

Oh love, oh love, hope now gone,
For me nothing more, there is nothing more,
But day after day of misery.

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