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.