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Belmont Avenue

26 Belmont

“May I help you?”
I don’t recognize the stranger addressing me
From the porch
Where I used to color with my cousins
Swing in my pajamas
Play with paper dolls.

I respond with an apology
For walking into the backyard
Where I used to play tag with my cousins
Catch summernight fireflies
Lay in the grass, spotting castles
In the clouds.

I tell her this is my
Used to be
My home.

“Would you like to come in?”
My heart pounds.  I decline,
Then quickly change my mind.
Yes.  Yes, please.

As I walk in, I’m overcome with emotion.
Much is the same.
Some is different.
Everything seems smaller –
Everything but the love.
The love looms large,
Reaching through the decades
To embrace,
Remind,
Confirm.

© copyright Marie Elena Good – 2013

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WHERE OUR HEARTS BELONGED

Home.
It is where the heart is.
We had left her years ago
but our hearts remained; an empty shell

where the essence of us resides.
They can cover her in vinyl,
but in the final determination
the combination of sunny yellow

and a mellow burnt umber trimming.
had her brimming with love.
A two-family dwelling with
full cellar. A fellow could find sanctuary

with nary a care; there was always family there.
A room paneled and trimmed
(all on the carpenter’s whim)
Bunks and captain’s beds,

where we were born and bred.
It remains in my heart and head,
where my memories come.
I’ll always her call home.

© – Walter J. Wojtanik – 2012

BECOMING MY FATHER

My elbows hurt. Years of swinging
a heavy framing hammer takes its toll.
Just like my father, the first thing to go.
To extol the virtues of hard work
hardly works for one bred and raised
into it. A good fit for a blue-collar guy.
Big plans and ideas; a mental diarrhea
that clouds the here and now. How did
I not see it before? Sure, I’m enough
of my own man to matter, and still
enough of my old man to not care.
Where do I draw the line? It is a fine line
at that, and that begins the tale. The travails
of this life, rife with pitfalls and victories
are visited upon the son; the one most like
the man he aspired to be. My shuffle is
more deliberate. My vision waning.
My voice, still strong on paper dissipates
like vapor when I speak. I seek approval
to verify my insecurities. The purity of
thought and deed in need of a boost. No better
place to roost than in his shoes. These blues
sound better with a strong drumbeat; a sweet
syncopation to drive this transformation homeward.
The signs are tell-tale. The change is nearly complete.
I mailed my registration to AARP today.
All for a six-dollar savings on a safe driving course,
to get me a ten percent discount on insurance rates.
I am becoming my Father. My elbows hurt.

 

Walt

DAYS SUCH AS THESE

You awaken to the alarm clock’s incessant tug,
a daily bug up your ass that tells you it’s time
to start over and face the world anew.
It’s  just you (it’s always just you)
who begins the day the exact same way:
brewing a pot of liquid motivation,
dressing for your dreams of success,
and holding hope that expressing your heart
in the guise of poetic ponderance
will exorcize the demons buried deeply
in the center of your tired psyche.
You might be too old for this shit,
but it beats the alternative, so you live
one day at a time and you never mind the burden.
Some days are like that; some days are better.
Let her dictate the dance and take your chances
while you still have the gumption. Your major
malfunction is that you wouldn’t be in this position
if you didn’t have the heart for it. You use your poet
words to both curse the darkness and shed your single light
on unsuspecting souls. It’s you who controls the emotion,
your iambic devotion to the process gives you
strength to battle the elements that surround you;
should it confound you, than you’ll be no worse
that the rest of the populice. A cathartic release,
a “do as you please” attitude that will serve you well.
What the hell, you were built for days such as these.

Walt

OUR LADY OF MT. CARMEL ANNUAL CHURCH FESTIVAL

I am resurrecting an old piece of mine, because this happens to be the weekend of this festival.  I envy my relatives who still live in the area, and can attend at will.  Save some cheese puffs for me, guys!  And thanks to Chris for helping me with a few of the details.

OUR LADY OF MT. CARMEL ANNUAL CHURCH FESTIVAL

I’m scorching hot. My clothes cling to me in the smothering humidity. Add to that the people-laden, sticky black tar church parking lot without a shade tree in sight. Ugh.

Yet, the air is saturated with inviting aromas: potent garlic; sweet onion; roasted peppers; spicy Italian sausage; yeast bread rolls; sweet dough twists with cinnamon sugar; cotton candy … and cheese puffs. My cousin Tom and I make a beeline for the deep-fried sweet dough filled with ooey gooey cheese. Yummmmm!

We race toward the Ferris wheel, dodging through the crammed masses and attractions. My nostrils are suddenly assaulted with the fishy stench of smelt. Eew. This booth boasts a line of cuffed pants; brimmed hats; men’s black shoes; and long-sleeved shirts soaked with sweat, each revealing the standard white muscle T beneath. These older Italian men puff cigars (again, eew!) and pass the time in line playing the loud, fast-paced game of Morra.

“Quatro!” (four!)

“Sette!” (seven!)

“Otto di fuoco!” (eights on fire!)

Roars of laughter rise with the cigar smoke above the cacophony of festival sounds.

From a game booth, a hoarse female voice hails, “Roll down, roll down! Six tries for a dollar!”

Various carnival rides summon as well: Creeeek … screeeeeech … tic, tic … whoooosh!

A button accordion pumps out a Polka, accompanied by the “oom pah” of a tuba. We pause to watch smiling couples bob as they step, quick-step, step, hold their way around a make-shift dance floor.

We spot Nonna at the Bingo Tent with an array of cards spread before her, fervently trying to win an “Infant of Prague.” This uniquely Catholic carnival prize is a plaster figure of the jewel-crowned infant Jesus, clothed magnificently in a robe of rich red, royal blue, or gold. Game booths and tents flaunt eye-catching displays of the satiny fabrics, glistening jewels, and outstretched arms of the holy infant. I feel the contrast of Nonna’s satiny cheeks and stiffly sprayed hair as she pulls us close, and presses a quarter into each of our palms.

Continuing to the Ferris wheel, a small stand topped with a six-foot twirling glass of yellow lemonade beckons. Soon soothing icy lemon slush slides down the back of my throat.

I nurse my treat while in line for our ride. Cold sweat drips off the cup into my sandals, and squishes between my toes. A silvery car grinds its way to the bottom of the giant spoked wheel. We hop on, my bare legs sticking to the hot metal seat. Tom slams the safety bar shut, and we rock precariously forward and back.

The car jerks and jolts as we inch up a notch so the one below us can load, and so on –

one

car

at

a

time.

Stuck at the peak, we get a birds-eye view. The setting sun creates peach, mauve, and midnight blue hues. Glistening stringed lights of sapphire, emerald, ruby, and gold crisscross the grounds. Suddenly, my hair flies up and my stomach drops, then settles back in as it grows accustomed to the whirling sensation. For just a moment, I close my eyes and relish the breeze.

Marie Elena

NOT FADE AWAY

Cool it with the Charles noise,
I’m just one of Ella and Larry’s three boys.
Call me Buddy, everyone does,
I don’t know why; they tell me “Just because”

     I found my voice by the age of five,
     recorded songs from before I was alive.
     Music lived in me; it filled me, obsessed me,
     I’d even say that “demon” possessed me.

Along the way they screwed up my name,
yet in their mistake, I found my fame.
Finding my piece of pie in the American Dream,
when I gulped and hiccupped onto the scene.

     Rock and Roll was in its early stage,
     but I knew it would be the rage,
     I assembled a band, that was the ticket,
     and with me to lead, we were the Crickets.

Oh Boy, what a time! A thrill of my life,
It’s so easy to get into this life.
The drums were the heartbeat, and I knew what to do,
If you love Rock and Roll, I’m gonna love you too.

     It’s great to rave on with these words of love,
     Below it was blue days, black nights up above.
     But, something touched this brown eyed handsome man.
     If you saw her smile, maybe baby, you’d understand.

I found true love ways, in Maria Elena’s smile,
she gave me my heart, it gave me my style.
Love at first sight, I asked “think it over”,
she said “Yes”. I was rolling in clover.

     I went on the road, she stayed home expecting,
     her sad Spanish eyes were surely reflecting
     the raining in her heart, she appeared to be coping,
     while she sat by the phone crying, waiting, hoping.

Clearlake was rocking, the music insane,
a late winter storm as we boarded the plane.
“I hope your plane crashes”, Waylon Jennings would say,
In my bright Holly smile I said, “That’ll be the day!”

     “And the three men I admire the most,
     the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost,
     well, they caught the last train for the coast,
     the day the music died.” ~ Don McLean (American Pie)

Walt

POSTCARD TO IGOLOMIA, 1905

Father,

I have come to America.
We are huddled here, masses
of peoples from many places.
Polish, German, Irish, Italian.
Swedish, Nordic, Austrian, Czech…
Slowly, we are processed to be free.
Men, women and children; both strong and infirm.
Some are detained; but I am lucky.
The lady of liberty says,
“Welcome to America, Jozef”.
I am free.

Your son,
Jozef

Walt