Thursday, October 27, 2011


When me and Stevie were kids
In Junior High School
We were the best of friends
No matter that one of us
Was richer than the other
Or that one of us
Was so much poorer
Than the other
No matter that one of us
Lived in a private
Gated community
Called Sea Gate
And no matter
That one of us
Lived in a
Public housing project
Called Gravesend houses
We were the best of friends
Even though I envied him
For having both a mother and a father
Me and my mom lived alone
And even though my dad
Came home alive
From being a soldier
In the First World War
He was given a disability discharge
Due to his service connected
War wounds
So to make a long story
I always told people
Who wanted to know
That my father
Was killed
In the First World War
I was a little going away present
That dad gave to mom
Just before he died
When I was only ten months old

My mother never complained
At the hand that life had dealt her
She just played out her hand
And bet her chips
And kept her poker face on
As she stared down
Life’s many adversities

I’ll give her credit for this much
She knew when to hold em
And when to fold em
And I often watched her in awe
As she bluffed her way
Out of more than one
Sticky situation after another
Without having even so much
As a pair of deuces in her hand

One afternoon
After school
Stevie and I were goofing off
As usual
Not really sure
What we wanted to do
When out of the blue
Stevie asks me to tackle him
On the concrete pavement
In front of his house
You crazy or what I said
That’s concrete you’re standing on
We would both get skinned
Tackle me he repeated
In a way that was both
A challenge and a dare
Don’t be a pussy he said
Getting personal about the matter
I ain’t no pussy I said
Getting a little testy
About his tone and manner
So tackle me then
What are you afraid of
Nothing I said
Although I thought that
The whole idea was more than dumb
I understood that I was being challenged
But what was this challenge to be
A test of our friendship
A test of loyalty
A test of guts and courage
Over brains and good judgment
All of the above

I guess Stevie finally got tired of waiting
For me to make up my mind
He waved me off with a dismissive
Forget you he said
I should have known better than to ask

And with that I laid into him
Going full tilt
Knocking us both to the pavement
Until I could feel the stones
And bits of cut glass
Stinging my now damaged and badly scrapped
Elbows and knees
I could feel trickles of blood
Beginning to ooze out of
Various new bruises

Stevie laughed like crazy
Sonofabitch he said
Pushing me off his hurting body
Not caring that he had been hurt
Or damaged
Or that his clothes got torn

Why should he care after all
He was a rich kid
And he could always buy new clothes
Any time he wanted

Despite the fact that
The palm of my right hand
Was now cut and bleeding
I helped Stevie up
As bits of glass and dirt
Pushed deeper into the skin
As we pulled at each other
Until we were both
Once more fully erect
And standing on our own two feet

Stevie brushed himself off
Still shaking his head
And then he looked at me
Straight in the eye

You know he said
You are one crazy
Sonofabitch he said
While shaking my now
Possibly broken hand

Yeah I said
Disregarding the pain
So what does that make you?

Philadelphia, Pa. 2011

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