Category Archives: neighborhood

Don’t-Ask-Babe

Don't ask Babe

 

I wrote this one as part of the April 2013 Poetic Asides Poem-A-Day challenge. Just another day in the neighborhood…

 

Don’t-Ask Babe

I’d been sitting in the street with my hand up the
left front wheel well of the van like some large
animal veterinarian checking the cervix
of a past-due rhinoceros. Been there for at
least half an hour, effing and blinding about
why Chrysler can’t put the turn signal bulb
in a place accessible to normal sized hands

and I look up and there’s Don’t-Ask Babe
coming down the sidewalk towing his entire
forty-two-inch Craftsman rolling tool chest,
with twenty ball-bearing drawers, black.
(Don’t-Ask Babe, you wonder? His dad was
a huge Yankee fan back in the old country,
and it’s a bit of a touchy subject. So… you know, don’t ask).

I look up and he says, That’s a ’97 isn’t it?
and he starts pulling open drawers like he’s
playing whack-a-mole with a socket set. No, Babe,
I’m good, I say. He wheels around. What?
You think just cause I’m some stupid Mexican
I can’t fix your shiddy van? Then he flashes
his trademark smile and hands me a wrench.

Anyway, he says, I’m from the Dominican.

 

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Breaking

It’s been a strange week in our neighborhood.  Fall is getting into full swing, and the trees are glorious.  At the same time, there have been a spate of break-ins, the most recent of which turned deadly for one of those doing the breaking-in.  I end up feeling sad and angry more than scared.  I hate the waste – of life, of hope – and the toll that events like this take on an entire community.  I feel for the homeowners, too – so tired of wondering if they are safe within their own four walls.  Thank God for the leaves amid the sadness.  And for all who care. (To share with friends at the dVerse Poets Pub).

 

Breaking

They wrapped our street in yellow tape today
and turned the sky the colors of the flag

a stain of red, depression blue, and white
for a surrender that went unheeded.

Tracker dogs are nosing down the alley
while a shit-scared juvenile lies bleeding

in an ambulance, blinking back his friends,
the ones that escaped, the one that didn’t.

And no one will say for sure what went down
how many broke in, or how he found them.

I imagine the cries, the deadly force,
the chaos and bile spattered on a floor.

Some might say the young man had it coming
but I think something just died in us all.

 

Death in the pot

It’s been a rough week in the neighborhood.  We had a grade-school kid collapse on our lawn after experimenting with synthetic marijuana.  Then a spate of gang-related graffiti, including some of the most disturbing racial threats I have seen.  What really set me back in the end was the way none of this even phased me.  I just carried on as if things were normal.  Which I guess they are.  No outrage, no compassion.  Just a kind of jaded indifference.  I don’t like to think this the is person I am becoming.  Something has to change in this neighborhood – and maybe it’s me  Maybe you can connect with this, in some way.  Anyway, I wrote this bop as I reflected on the experience of these days.

He couldn’t have been more than twelve years old,
face down on our lawn, strung out on K-2.
Out of nowhere there were three police cars
blocking the street, soon joined by a fire truck
and a white ambulance. Then came the crowd,
the shouts, the knowing looks, the same old dance.

Something has to change in this neighborhood.

Overnight there was fresh graffiti sprayed
on our neighbors’ garage – a racial slur
with a threat. The City sent a young man
to take photos. He hardly said a word.
It all just felt so completely normal:
cops on our lawn, the n-word three feet tall.
It wasn’t until my son said to me,
“I’m scared to be outside,” that it hit me:

Something has to change in this neighborhood.

Suddenly I’m angry. Seething at the
drug pushers, slum lords, smug politicians,
most of all, myself – for falling asleep,
dulled by twenty years in one place, until
I don’t blink when a kid might be dying
on my doorstep. There is death in the pot.

Something has to change in this neighborhood.

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