Thursday, April 28, 2011

Philly Vs. NYC

Whenever someone
Gets in your face
It is usually very direct
The violence and hatred
Comes straight at you
Like a hail storm
And the matter
Usually gets settled
More or less
On the spot
There and then
One way or the other
Until police arrive
Or the EMT’s take someone
To the emergency room

In Philadelphia
Whenever someone
Gets in your face
The matter seldom gets resolved
There and then
More often than not
The belligerents
Slink off
To plot some sort
Of revenge move
One that usually
Comes at night
Unexpectedly and cowardly
In the dark
In the shadows
With no witnesses
So you might wake up
A day, a week, a month
Or two later
With your house on fire
Or with the tires
On your car
Slashed to ribbons
Or you may find
Your pet cat decapitated
And you rarely
Can tell for sure
Who is to blame
You can call the police
To report your suspicions
If you want
But most likely
Nothing will ever come of it

Some twenty years ago
I moved from NYC to Philly
In part to escape
As much as possible
All the excessive
Violence that occurs
On a daily basis
In what is laughingly
Called The Big Apple
Only to find
That there are parts
Of Philadelphia
That resembles
War time Baghdad
Or Beirut or Iwo Jima

In NYC the gangsters
Have a certain amount of class
Even cache
A certain sense of style
They worry a lot
About their image
About how good they look
While they are kicking
The living daylights
Out of their
Most recent hapless victim

In Philly
Street fighting remains
As you may
Or may not
Have gathered by now
A still mostly informal
Come as you are event
With very few rules
To hinder the
No holds barred

You’ll most
Likely have to pay off
Some self-styled Mr. Big
To compensate for your
Real or imagined transgressions
You may also have to spring
For a couple of very expensive plane tickets
To a very expensive resort and spa
That is located
Way out of town
The tickets are not for you

And if you value your life
You’ll definitely have to
Render unto Caesar
Whatever Caesar
Happens to want
Or else you may have
To elect to settle
Out of court
At a grossly expensive
And be forced to pay
The exorbitant dinner
Prices in the Italian
Latino community
At some mob owned eatery
Located in some
Out of the way
Way off the beaten path
Little known suburban township
Like Ronkonkoma or
Fire Island

Or you may be forced
To buy a shit load of tickets
At a couple of hundred bucks
A pop to the upcoming
Policeman’s Ball
Or the upcoming
Fireman’s Benevolent Society Raffle
Unless you prefer
To sell the tickets
Yourself to some of
Your well heeled friends

So either way
You are going to have to pay
Through the nose
Or you will
No longer have a nose
To pick
If you catch my drift
So take your pick
In the final analysis
The final choice
Of how you
Render unto Ceasar
Whether in NYC or in Philly
Is more or less
Entirely up to you.
Unless of course
You have a problem with that?

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

St. Clement's Church 2- A Few Days Later

I came back a few days later
To the same crime scene
At St. Clement’s Church
And curiosity led me
To take another look
At the fallen dead pigeon
Whose broken body
Remained in state
Just behind
The church yard
This time however
The scene
No longer seemed so serene
Gone was the sense
Of peaceful repose
During the past intervening
Several days
The body was already
Getting moldy
The corpse having been ravaged
By neighborhood scavengers
The bird’s once impressive plumage
Now mostly stripped away
By the smaller starlings and sparrows
Who were using
The dead bird’s feathers
To feather their own fledgling nests

I happened to catch
One of the winged grave robbers in the act
A little sparrow
Who was busy plucking
And snatching her fallen comrade’s
Downy feathers
She caught a glimpse of me
Looking at her
As if she half expected
To be arrested
For desecration of a corpse
She cocked her head
As if to say so what
I too have responsibilities
I too have a nest to build
I too have a clutch of eggs
That need to be hatched
So that the cycle of life
May continue to go on
These feathers that I am snatching
Will keep the eggs warm
And they will provide good insulation
Against the weather
So why not?
How am I at fault?
Where am I to be blamed?
Where am I in the wrong?
And with that said
She turned her tail feathers
In defiance
And off she flew
To her well protected
And well hidden nest
I remembered that the day
Just happened to be Holy Thursday
The day that Jesus was betrayed
For thirty pieces of silver
His body tortured and scourged
Until his yet living corpse
Could be delivered up
So that he could meet his
Sure and certain
Fate on the cross
Gone were his robes
And on his head
A crown of thorns

It was absurd to compare
My dead pigeon
To the fate of Jesus on the cross
And so I forced myself to cease my
Morbid musings
And I moved on
Past the church gates
To continue to go on
About my mundane business
To content myself
With more natural
And more pleasant thoughts
But I just could not shake off
The image of the fallen pigeon
From my mind
I suppose one could say
That nature was simply recycling
Her dead
And that even in death
Nature’s rule of
Waste not want not
Always applies
Or it could be seen
As the living and strong
Taking advantage of the weak
And helpless
I shrugged off my doubts
Thinking that
In a few weeks
There will be nothing
Left of the dead pigeon
To be seen
Except for the two poems
That I happened
To have written
As a kind of elegy
As a kind of eulogy
As a kind of apology
Or perhaps
Just as a way
Of somehow
One last
Good bye

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

On Reaching Out To A Former Girl Friend Via Facebook

I recently tried
To reach out
To a former
Girl friend
Via Facebook
We have not spoken
To each other
For the past
Thirty years
But I figured
What the hell
No sense thinking
About her every day
If I do not try to contact
Her at least once more
Before I die
So I can die
Without having at least that one
Regret hanging over my head
And heart
So I looked her up
On the search engine
And located her page
And I began
To send her messages
I miss you
I still love you
We can work it out
Life is too short for fussing
And fighting my friend
(She is a fanatical Beatles fan)
At least won’t you let me be
Your Facebook friend?
I waited several weeks
No reply
I waited several weeks more
Still no reply
I tried writing her poems
And posting them to her wall
No reply
I recalled our past relationship
Reminded her of things
Whispered long ago
No reply
I sent her suggestive song lyrics
From the era when we dated
No reply

And then finally
I broke down
And I did the unthinkable
I begged her to forgive me
(Ain’t To Proud To Beg Sweet Darlin’)
I begged her to try to get past
All the years of accumulated
Anger and hurt
I apologized to her
For all the hurt that I may
Have caused her
Whether intended or not
I said that if we could
Not get together again
Could I at least be
One of her many
(Hundreds) of Facebook friends
But still
No reply

I told her
I was having a rough time
Without her
And that I needed her help
No reply

Finally, I flipped all the cards
And tried to appeal
For her sympathy
In a final desperate
Attempt to woo her
I told her that
I really needed to know
If she still cared enough
To at least be able to say
That she would
And still does continue to care
If I were to go on living or not

Again I waited
And waited
And again
No reply

Ah well
I thought
Throwing in the towel
While typing in my favorite
Porno page
So much
For reaching out
To former
Girl friends
Via Facebook.

Philadelphia, pa. 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

St. Clement’s Church

I was walking
St. Clement’s Church
Near 20th and Arch
One beautiful spring
When out of the corner
Of my eye
I caught a glimpse
Of a dead pigeon
Nestled in a bed of Ivy
Its iridescent feathers
Still able to shimmer
In the fading
Its head still turned
To one side
As if resting
On a pillow
One wing extended
With each feather splayed out
Tail feathers too
Like an ornate Chinese fan
So peaceful and serene
Was the scene
That it reminded me of the Pieta
By Michael Angelo
Or the elongated finger of God
As painted on the ceiling
Of The Sistine Chapel
Or of some other
Iconic religious
That was meant to be displayed
For the edification and enlightenment
Of ordinary folk like me
I remained there watching
For what may
Have been an hour
I was tempted
To take a picture
If I had by some miracle
Or premonition
Had the foresight
To have brought
My camera along with me

I may even
Have said a prayer
Or two or three
But despite my prayers
The pigeon
Did not stir
Nor did it rise to its feet
To once again
Leap into the sky

When I again
Resumed my walk
Leaning from time to time
Against the Church’s gated fence
I once again
Just happened to see
A company of Hyacinths
Pink and blue and yellow
Gently swaying in the wind
Waving to me
Beckoning me closer
So that I could smell
Their exquisite perfumes
So sweet and pungent
Mixing with the warm breezes
Of the approaching dusk’s air

And I was uplifted
And revived
And I ceased to have a care
Until I once again
My fallen pigeon friend
Just a short hop and a skip
From there
Still asleep
At the garden’s other end
Still beautiful in death
Yet still no longer
Able to breathe
Or coo
Or fly

Never again
Would it ever soar
With its comrades
As pigeons love to do
The whole flock
Circling around
And around
The church’s elegant
Nor could it ever
Smell again
As I still could
The Hyacinth’s
Sacred perfumes

And that
Dear friend
As Norman Mailer
Once said
Neatly sums up
The difference
Between the living
The quick
And the dead

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011.

Friday, April 15, 2011

I Live In Jonestown

I live in Jonestown
Cabrini Green Housing Project
Gravesend Bay Housing Project
The ghetto
The hood
The inner city
Ground zero
I was born on skid row
I am working class poor
I am under-water in debt
My neighbors are equally poor
And their mutual poverty
Is the only thing
In which they are equal
I live in a food desert
There are no
fresh fruit or vegetables
To be had for miles around
I buy most of what I need
At the corner Bodega
I pay with cash or credit card
Most pay with Access Cards
Or Food Stamps or WIC
The prices at the Bodega
Are inflated
The store is always full of children
Buying candy and soda pop
And cigars for blunts
My home is fifty years old
And badly in need of repairs
That I cannot afford to make
I do not own a car
I am 64 and still paying for student loans
I am grateful for public transportation
But it ain’t cheap either
I vote for the Democrats
Because I’ve been told since childhood
That the Dems are for the little guy
And the GOP is only for the rich
I take these home spun truths
To be gospel
I have no official religion
I am a hyphenated Jew
Go ahead and convert me
Everyone else already has
I am an easy convert
But I never stay converted for long
I may change from time to time
But before long
I am back to being
my old self once again
I watch too much TV
I am a couch potato
I am a diabetic
I take at least a dozen different medications
Every day
I have leg ulcers
The refuse to heal
And that bleed profusely
When scratched or picked at
My doctor yells at me
To be a better patient
To lose weight
To stop developing more symptoms
To basically just leave him alone
I am divorced
I have a daughter
And two grand sons
Whom I seldom get to see
Times being what they are
Circumstances being what they are
Me being who I am
And who I have always been
I can’t find a woman
Willing to date me
Let alone marry me
I am difficult to live with
Unless you happen to be a cat
Or a dog
Or a gold fish
I have PTSD
From years of
Working in the trenches
As a child welfare case worker
Working with abused and neglected children
I have had many different careers
None of them have been successful
I am nearing the age of retirement
I will hopefully have a small pension
And social security
And a few dollars saved in the bank
To tide me over
Come what may
I am near the end of my rope
I write poems
To keep from going insane
I have no illusions
As to the longevity of my work
Surviving beyond the grave
I cannot afford a grave
I have been trying for years
To pre-arrange
My funeral arrangements
But can never seem
To bring the elements together
I have many projects
That are up in the air
I procrastinate about everything
I am losing my hair
I am losing my memory
I have erectile dysfunction issues
That purple pills cannot overcome
I have not asked my doctor
If I am healthy enough
To have sexual relations
I have never had an erection
Lasting more than four hours
I watch too many car commercials
For a man who cannot afford to own a car
I like old movies
That I do not have to watch
If I want to take a nap
I do not want
To be kept alive artificially
With tubes and catheters
Sticking out of my veins
I am not afraid of dying
I am terrified
Of no longer being able to live
I live alone
But not by choice
I hate being abandoned
By the people I have tried so hard
To love the most
I have too many memories
I have lived my allotted
Three score and ten
And despite all that I have
Just written in this poem
I really have no complaints

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Roy Rogers, Trigger and Me

Yeah, there were times
When, as a child of let’s say,
From seven to eleven,
That I would pretend
That I was a cowboy
Making believe
That I was riding a pony

I would make all of the needed sound
Effects that a real horse would make
Snorting and neighing and such
Pawing at the ground and
Even making my horse
Rear up on its hind legs
The way Roy Rogers’ horse
Trigger would do

My horse’s name was Pal
Short for Palomino
And he was a faithful
Steed indeed

We would ride the range
All the way from
Brighton Beach to
Sheepshead Bay
Taking the scenic route
Along the boardwalk
Sometimes venturing
Onto the sandy beach
And sometimes
Splashing through the water
Along the shore line
Stopping to inspect
The wide assortment of sea shells
And all the rest of the flotsam and jetsam
That the ceaseless tides
Might provide

I had quite a collection
Of horseshoe crab shells
And bags of broken beach glass
That I stole
From Old King Neptune’s
Treasure trove
My horse could gallop
And canter
And he could
Jump park benches
In a single bound

Up in the sky!
It’s a bird!
No it’s a plane!
No it’s Superman!
And all the rest of it

There wasn’t a commercial
Or a jingle
Or a TV show theme song
That me and my friend’s
Did not know by heart

It seemed we could all
Morph so easily
Into this or that
Cartoon character
Or comic book hero
Our minds and hearts
Were open to everything
That the whole wide world
Had to offer

And what would the world
Expect of us in return
Our innocence
Our trust
Our love

What plans were in store
For this post war
Generation of dreamers
More wars to fight
For the honor and glory
Of the fatherland?

Some of us would go
off to fight the wars
And a good number of us
Would not
But whether we marched off
To Woodstock or Vietnam
We would always
As a generation
To find our way back:

To those thrilling days of yesteryear
To a fiery horse with the speed of light
To a cloud of dust
And a hearty
Hi Ho Silver!
The Lone Ranger
Rides again!
(Yep, that’d be me!)

Philadelphia, pa. 2011

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Sun Comes Up

The sun comes up
East to west
The boardwalk stretches
From here
To the horizon

I lift you up
By your elbows
Your pigtails
You are all freckles
And smiles

Nothing but
Boardwalk, beach
Ocean and sky
Boardwalk, beach
Ocean and sky
while overhead
The seagulls
And howl
Like jackals

Too soon
The sun begins to set
East to west
The boardwalk
No longer
Seems quite as long
The carousel
Bells begin to ring madly
As the painted
Wooden ponies
Slowly begin to rise
And come to life

You and I
We listen
To the cacophonic
Of whirligig organ grinder
Music and chiming bells

While we eat
Our cotton candy
And jelly apples
Just you and me
Father and daughter
Until we are almost
With joy

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

I Just Wanted to Feel Whole Again

One year ago
Almost to the day
I lost my passport
Stupidly, clumsily
The day I went to visit
My grandkids
In Charlotte
North Carolina
The kicker was
That there was no need
To even have
The damn thing
Along with me
Since it was a domestic flight
And I had my driver’s license
Which was all the ID
That I actually needed
I lost the damn thing
On the Septa train
On the way to the airport
Not being a seasoned traveler
Any more
(Not that I was ever really one
To begin with)
I am world famous
For being a notorious
Stick in the mud
But old habits die hard
And I thought that I had put
The damn thing
In a safe place
But no matter
When it came time
To produce some ID
I went looking for her
And she was gone
Vanished into thin air
Not possible
I thought
Checking and rechecking
Every piece of baggage
And clothing
That I was carrying
Until finally
I realized the damn thing was lost
Now I am in a cold sweat
Picturing in my mind
Who has my passport now
And will it end up
In the hands of criminals and
Terrorists or worse
The chance of the passport
Being found by a nun
From Mother Theresa’s order
Zilch to none
Finally, getting my bearings,
I managed to produce
My driver’s license
So that I was allowed to proceed
To the security check in zone
By this time I was thoroughly frazzled
And ready to be further humiliated
At the airport security gate
By the TSA guards
When my pants fell down
(After I was told to remove my belt)
Now in addition to losing my pants
I had no shoes
(All folks must take off their shoes nowadays
Every since the failed shoe bomber attack)
And all my remaining worldly belongings
Were on some conveyer belt
Being examined by strangers
For contraband
When the only contraband I had
Was my shit stained draws
Now visible for all the world to see
To top it all off
When I put my shoes back on
I realized that
I had on the wrong pair of shoes
Somehow my shoes got mixed up
With some one else
Who must have been in such
A twisted hurry
He never noticed
The switch
So now I had on this pair of
Two sizes too small
That so pinched my diabetic toes
That by the time I reached Charlotte
That the two big toe toenails
Had to be removed
(And they have not grown back fully since)
My foot doctor could not believe the damage
Done to my feet
All from wearing the wrong pair of shoes
Is there a moral to this story
One, next time take the bus or train
Two, make sure you are wearing
Comfortable shoes
And three
Leave the passport home
Unless you are going
To Paris, France
Or some such foreign place
That actually requires
The damn thing
And four
Always remember
To kiss and hug
Your grand kids
No matter what

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

My Prisoner Number

My prisoner number
Is 213424
I have it memorized
My cell
My cubicle
Is five by five
Too small for me
To stretch out or
Lay down
I cannot see my co-workers
They cannot see me
This is the system
That they all voted for
When asked if they
Preferred a more
Open system
No they said
They wanted
They chose
The closed off cubicle system
The lighting is blinding
Overhead bright white
Florescent tubes
That some say
Promotes brain cancer
I think that they might be right
Anyway the light glare
Is blinding
After eight hours a day
Five days a week
Staring at a computer screen
It is a wonder
That we haven’t
All gone blind by now
My prisoner number
Is 213424
I have it memorized
This job has ruined my health
I am chained to a desk
Eight hours a day
I am a program analyst
A trained monkey
Could easily do my job
I work in a big city
Child welfare bureaucracy
I am a very small cog
In a very big
Clockwork orange machine
That never closes
Never shuts down
After twenty or so years
I am ready for retirement
I am a short timer
I am counting the days
Weeks, months
Until I am paroled
I get no time off
For good behavior
I get no time off
For bad behavior
I get two weeks vacation
But I am not paid enough
To afford to go anyplace
So I do house work
Until it is time to
Go back to the office
I will never get my health back
I will never get my youth back
I have heard stories of co-workers
Who die a year or two after
They retire
Some are given a retirement party
Most are not
Most just work their last day
And are never heard from again
For all intents and purposes
We short timers mostly have grey hair
We are easy to spot
Because half of us can barely walk
The few blocks to and from the
Nearest bus stop
Nearest train stop
We have been squeezed dry
All the juice is gone
All the get up and go
Has likewise gone
Mostly I am just tired
Bone tired
My joints ache
I can only walk
Half a block
At a time
Without getting winded
I do like
Sitting in the park
Feeding the pigeons
Watching the passersby
And I do like
Watching the children play
I also have to take a lot of meds
These days
That is when
I can remember
To take them
Otherwise my eyes
Get so blurry
I sometimes
Cannot tell
If it is day
Or night

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011