Ed’s new wife wants to know
what he was like as a kid.
I have no idea. All I remember
is he was ten and I was eight
and we spent every summer day
playing stickball in the street
or wiffle ball in my driveway.
His favorite memory is a weekday
morning, waking at 5:00 AM,
him, my father and me taking
the 6 train, the view of Yankee
Stadium pulling into the station,
waiting in line for hours to sit
in the bleachers and watch
the Yankees and Giants play
the third game of the ‘62 Series.
I remember pitching, winning
the CYO sixth grade championship
while he batted clean-up.
Ed hurt his arm, quit baseball
in high school. He was the first
neighborhood kid who grew
his hair long. He wore frilly,
dashikis and walked quickly
past my stoop with his head down.
All the moms and dads whispered
about drugs and fags, wondered
what the hell was wrong with him.
My father, who never let me grow
my hair, would nod and repeat
no, he’s a good kid. Ed played
the B3 organ like Felix Cavaliere
of The Rascals as girls pressed
closer to the stage, yelled his name.
If I wasn’t so self absorbed
in my own schoolyard glories,
I probably would have looked up
to him, wanted to be him. Later,
I played softball with his younger
brothers, my mom would see
his mother at church and I’d catch
news flashes: law school, wild
dangling curls, long black coat,
his conversion to Orthodox Judaism,
married, rich, three kids, estranged
from his parents, eventually divorced,
leaving the Hasidic community
for tailored suits, an Upper East Side
condo, perfectly trimmed wispy hair.
Last Thursday we drove to see
the Rascals reunion. Forty years
since they last played together
with Felix singing sweet, more soulful
than any white man should be allowed.
Dino twirling his sticks, pounding
the beat like 1968. Driving home,
we talked about Catholic school,
memorizing catechism that left
no room for discussion or doubt.
The way we did anything
our fathers’ told us and how
they hit us when we didn’t
do it fast enough. All the things
no one ever talked about, things
that haunt us most. His first girl
friend’s suicide. The Sunday night
my cousin Jimmy shot gunned
his brains across his bed room.
His father changing their name
from Davidowitz to Davis.
My mother never answering
any questions about her mother,
never wondering why she left,
why my grandfather kicked her
out of the house, why my mom
hung up whenever she called
late at night, never caring
to listen, not one thread
of wonder, too afraid to hear
anything but the version
her father fed her, the one
that held her life together.
Published in Nerve Cownoy
JACK AND DIANE (The Sequel)
A little ditty ‘bout Jack and Diane
Two American kids growin’ up in the heartland
Diane’s upstairs, showing
her mother the pink outfit
she bought for Cindy’s first Easter.
Jack sits in the basement apartment,
stretches his legs on the table,
listens to a Grateful Dead
bootleg, drinks another Rolling
Rock. Mosquitoes buzz, land
on window screens. He picks
a scab off his elbow, flicks it
to the floor. Greasy dishes float
in a tub of gray suds. Jack taps
his ring finger against the can,
keeps the beat. He drinks the last
drop, walks to the back door,
watches all-day rain hit the car.
Are you sure, he asked? Yeah, I called the clinic
yesterday. He stared
at the ground, pounded
his fist against the grill.
He’d been saving for a trip
out west, a new set of tires.
She bit her lip, tucked frizzy hairs
behind her ear, I can’t kill
my baby. He kicked gravel
in a puddle, touched her arm.
Diane brings the baby down,
lays her in the crib. Mom
went out shopping. Stepping back,
she loosens her robe. He leans
forward, kisses her full breasts,
licks the warm milk leaking
from red nipples. She crouches,
unbuttons his jeans. Her fingers
fondle his balls. She kisses
the tip, swirls her tongue
around the head, slides down
to the root. She takes it in her mouth,
sucks gently. He stays soft.
She lifts her head, says Baby,
what’s wrong? He shuts his eyes,
feels her saliva chill.