Homage to My Hometown They stand on a rock high above the Passaic, pinch their nostrils and jump naked into the current before it caked up with oil, tin cans, and empty thread spools from Coats & Clark. When the bad boys climb out onto the shore, their arms are covered with sooty residue. Shave your arms into the backyard sinkholes caused by those two-centuries old mine shafts that no one cared about until now. Ruby Dee drills holes in corkboard at Bell while William Gargan rides in an open-air sedan selling war bonds with Paulette Goddard. The junkyard and landfills finally Febreze the Meadows. The stone wall along the cemetery shows gunpowder stains and gouges from Revolutionary War shells that the row of Civil War corpses might have recognized from their youth. Let’s throw the leaves and rocks into a wheelbarrow, carry across the Pike into the sunken backyard. The one-armed devil’s red brick chateau razed after his death by friendly fire is rumored to still exist, in part, along Belgrove Drive. Let’s broadcast his legendary affair and divorce but drop his war record into the dinky that trots along the boulevard. Get ready to jump in the river before the high school’s Ecology club decides to clean up or condemn the area. Grab those Shop-Rite cans and Ford car mirrors. Sell them on eBay as nostalgic relics. The rust, the rust is worth everything.
At the Kitchen Table My mother’s ashtray catches her Kents before she serves dinner to my father, king of the otherwise all-female household. Sisterhood members gossip about the meeting they’ve just left. My mother kibbitzes with neighbors and family until the lamb chops burn again. My father pulls down the ceiling lamp, so mid-century in this 1920s house, to read the mail. The table gives way to midnight and dawn homework, breakfast plates of Bahlsen cookies and Tab, Strand Books purchases read over Sunday Burger King lunches, Jade Fountain egg foo young dinners, plates of steak bones we snatch from parents and bring into the playroom for gnawing pleasure, private conversations between mother and father. Until the house stands empty after fifty years and I, the youngest, sit alone at the table wondering who will sit here next.