Monday, June 20, 2011

The Slums Of East Hampton

You can take
The kid out of
The slums
But you can’t
Get the slum
Out of the kid
At least
That has been
My personal
In life

Growing up
In poverty
Leaves deep
And sometimes
Physical scars
That are more
Than merely
Skin deep

After my mother died
I was sent to live
With my brother’s family
In East Hampton New York
Coming as I did
From living in
One of the worst slum
Housing projects
In Coney Island

They didn’t call it
The Gravesend Housing Project
For nothing

The living conditions there
Were sub par on every level
Especially for government
Subsidized housing
My mom and I
Lived above
A rec center
On the third floor
With a view
Of the park
About three
Blocks away

The neighborhood
Was drug infested
Rat infested
Crime infested
And the streets
Were ruled by
Gang members
And thugs
Of every
Stripe and
All out to
Hustle a buck
And always
On the look out
For easy prey
For kids like me
Too scared to breathe
Afraid to make a
Wrong turn
Down the wrong
Street or alley way
Lest you be
Set upon
As if by a pack
Of hungry wolves
Looking to steal
Whatever clothes
You might happen
To have on your back
And any loose change
That you might happen
To have in your pockets
Or your shoes
Or from where ever
You hid your money

As I got older
I got smarter
And I always
Carried an extra
Wallet that contained
Nothing but junk
My Mugger’s wallet
I called it
Filled with phony
Monopoly money bills
And other junk
That I could toss at
My tormentors
While I turned
And ran away
As fast as
My legs could
Carry me

I could make it
From the surf avenue
Bus stop
To my apartment
In world class
Olympic gold medal
Winning time
If only they had
Such an event
Listed in the
Official Olympic
Schedule of recognized
My motto was
“You have to catch
Me first!”
I actually did win
A silver medal
For track from
Mark Twain
Junior High School
But that’s a tale
For another time
Suffice to say
That at the age
Of thirteen or fourteen
I was one of the fastest
Kids on my block

Then my mom died
Quite suddenly
But not
Given her catalog
Of health problems
When I was seventeen
And I was sent
To live in
East Hampton, NY
On the fashionable
East end of Long Island

The place was almost
To beautiful for mere words
To describe
I thought that I was the one
Who had died
And gone to heaven

My brother was
A successful CPA
With three of his own
Hatchlings to raise
I became the fourth

To say that I was
In culture shock
Hardly describes
The situation
Whereas I was accustomed
To being surrounded
By a sea of poor people
Here I was surrounded by
The very rich and
The very wealthy
The very snooty
And the very snobby
And I really did not
Fit in

Young as I was
I always knew
That these
East End
East Hampton denizens
Were not
My kind of people

Oh I put on a good show
I knew I had to maintain
A good front
(Smile, damn you, Smile!)
In order to please
My new guardians
If for no other reason
But no matter
How hard I tried
I always
Like a duck
Out of season

When my brother
He sold
The East End house
And moved
The clan to Florida
Where he and his wife
Could play golf
The live long day

After college
I returned
To my roots
Back in Brooklyn
In the hopes
That I could
Pick up
The loose strands
Of my interrupted
Life narrative
In the hopes
That I could
Begin again
And have a fresh start
Amid the familiar
And back lots
Of my vanished
Childhood life

Despite my fancy
The only entry level
Job that I was able
To find
Was as
As a retail
Seller of books
Working for
Minimum wage

And now
These many years
The East End
Still remains
Way beyond
My financial reach

And while being poor
Is not a crime
I do
Have to admit
I really do miss
The good times
Swimming at
E.H. Main beach

Philadelphia, Pa 2011


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