Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Billy Walsh

His name was Billy Walsh
and he was
the incarnation of
when I was growing up
as poor white trash
back in the old
South Brooklyn
slum neighborhood
that me and my mother
laughingly called home
(the rotting streets
and old delapidated houses
of  Neptune Avenue on the
wrong side of the tracks
just off the dividing line
known as Ocean Parkway)

Whenever I saw
Billy Walsh
sashaying down the street
in my direction
my stomach would knot up
and my breathing
would suddenly echo
in my ears
like the rushing
gushing sound of
Niagra Falls

Billy was just
a few years
older than me
a tough Irish kid
who mostly seemed to
live on the streets
a permanent fixture
of the neighborhood
where he held
reign and sway
over the rest of us
mere mortals
who were always
being told to
mind our own business and
to keep our noses clean
so that we could all
grow up to live the
so-called American Dream

Billy would shake us kids
down for our nickles and dimes
or for the grocery money
that we carried to
Edelman's to buy
household basics
(mostly on credit
with old man Edelman
keeping the ledger book
marking down the names
and amounts
of who owed him what
and exactly how much
so that all of our
welfare queen moms
could settle up with him
when the government checks
would finally arrive on the
first of every month
leaving just enough money
to pay the back rent and
not much else)

I could tell that
Billy had spotted me
as I stood
standing (cringing?)
idly on the
street corner

He made a beeline
straight for me
and I knew that
it was too late to
escape or to fade
into the landscape
like some urban cameleon
(a trick that all
of us street kids
had to quickly learn if
we wanted to be around
to see our next

there was never a cop
around when you
desperately needed one
(unless they happened
to be in the area to
pick up the precinct
pad money that they
would shake down
from the local
shop keepers
dealers and

Hello Billy
I said meekly
(hoping to catch him
in a forgiving mood
but no dice)
a quick right punch
to my stomach
was enough
to double me over
and to knock the wind
out of my lungs

Billy didn't linger long
over my prostrated body
(my capitulation having been
so quick and easy
and total
that I was considered to be
small pickings
hardly worthy of his attention)

I knew that Billy Walsh
didn't even know my name
but all of us neighborhood kids
who happened to live
in the environs of
P.S. 100
sure as hell knew his

philadelphia, pa. 2013

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