nightmare off bruckner boulevard

phantom submarines long to roam

all seven seas but cannot pass

barnacled barges rusting in the channel

of waterlogged nostalgia

for the peaceful streets of wartime

unlocked doors and blackened windows

full employment and boogie woogie

their midnight crews marooned in brown water

beyond cattails and the psychiatric hospital

and the cemetery where tides

sucked coffins from their graves

so these sailors of night

roam with the rowdy street regulars

and the ghostly memories of our parents

while the moon howls at trainloads

of dreamers dragged to destiny

and the deaf school listens to the headlight highway

that crosses avenues without looking

o the horror the horror haunting the dark

where everyplace is a strange neighborhood

drowning these swimmers of shadows

and where are the cameras to tell their tales

those who search for love in the night

why are not they immortal

whose life is an everyday occurrence

these lost navigators adrift upon

the fantastic sidewalks of the landlocked bronx

webster avenue

police prowl

looking for trouble

and coffee

the pub smells warm

of hops and hormones

of wishes realized in jukebox songs

war movies bogart televised sports

all behind those friendly doors

just across the street

and beyond the sinister shadows

of the third avenue el god rest its soul

the evil one makes smiling small talk

with strangers in the night

and off the passenger bridge

from knowledge to intoxication

over the valley of meaningless journeys

onto the sidewalk where many feet have traveled

the forlorn leaps

to a headache and stumbles

for pizza the desperate flesh

afraid and hungry the soul

lonely and thirsting

the self proclaimed retired underwater demolitions expert

is tired of the abuse he says

waves a garrison belt in our faces

does not know who we are and does not care

wants to hurt others before they hurt him

so we give him a beer

let him beat us at midnight checkers

blare the music and a young woman dances

him back to life then he vanishes

bottle in hand up the avenue of vengeance

and unseen in the night

two lovers who do not know it

throw rings of woe to the wind

and grow old together

scratch park

between the future mass murderer

and the extinct tavern

a scratch of asphalt trees

benches beside railroad tracks

that station empty and the train

from here to there seldom stops

concrete chessboards where old men battle

by day by night

beer cans are pawns on checkered squares

the nobility our empty bottles

we drink in history

and drink away our dreams

waiting for dawn

and youth to pass

each tells the other

how the other has erred

and we remain friends

for a forgotten while

and lose ourselves

in what we thought would be fulfillment

empty as that silly solemn darkness

of a warm night when anything may happen

and never seems to at the time

off southern boulevard

off southern boulevard where i will not tell

we find a real dirt tire rutted road

water gullies and pebbles and trees

and we who roam the night are compelled

to subliminal quests for minor satisfaction

so we walk this country lane

because it may not exist in such a city

as this and it curves beyond the known world

not a house in sight such wilderness

surrounds us with ourselves

we step softly in darkness

the breeze blows through our bodies

suddenly trees disappear

beneath our feet is the fine rooftop gravel

of an unknown building and we overlook

the valley where graffitied subway cars sleep

we do not speak so as not to wake them and beyond

tenement eyes stare like stars each light

a distant life on the skyline but we are visible

only to ourselves and we look and look

into the darkness until we leave

to wander and to weary of the night

the dharma express

you never step into the same subway twice

everything changes but the human condition

drop your token or jump your turnstile

hop the dharma express

leave randomly if you will before the last

stop that finality which is always there

waiting for you or for someone else

it matters not so the motorman drives on

and in the end he begins again

thus the last becomes the first

and in the middle huddle

passengers in windowed boxcars

peering over the rooftops of history

or shunning the reflections of darkened windows

while the conductor indifferently

opens and closes her doors for all or for none

and the iron serpent chases its tail

snake eyes in time’s great crapshoot

staring down the tunnels of night

and every gambler is surely

the master of his and of her fate

the bronx vikings

i see serpent ships

fierce eyed and grimacing prows

pregnant sails red as villages ablaze

blood and the setting sun red

a favorable wind and sturdy oarsmen

into the sunset which is our east

following the green coast

from the wasteland to warm winters

women and cattle aboard

immigrant explorers beyond the known world

hope the tidal lake karlsefni names it

i see water as blue

as never again

timber and ecstatic grapes

the bountiful beautiful land

salt marshes aswarm with birds

valleys and bluffs rolling to shore

huts are built fish caught

indians trade pelts for string and milk

more pelts less string

then a squabble and stone and iron clash

freydis bares herself

slaps a sword to her breast

like a berserk goddess and the battle halts

the terror of europe retreats to the waves

leaving an ax and runes for the dead

sailing to cold riches lest history repeat

and the warriors celebrate

beneath the bronx sky by the ominous sea


beyond the ocean

up the crooked strait

past hell gate

and little hell gate

and the kill

where the mainland of hill and marsh

butts the swirling tides

seven miles from civilization

and the muskets of new amsterdam

you buy land from sachem

and rent to sharecropper

so you have come mister bronck

to make a home

on the edge of the chaos of nature

where streams wind through uncleared wilderness

emmaus you call it

and there are trials and revelations

and wars

and patriotic native americans

burn farms to the green green ground

and the land named after the river

that bears your name spits you out

and the land passes away

to morris and his heirs

o you should see what is left of their tombstones

fading in saint ann’s churchyard

in a valley of charred bronx tenements

gouverneur morris laughs from his grave


gouverneur morris laughs from his grave

sunday congas are distant incessant thunder

enchanted streets swarm and scream

beyond the spikes which ban our flesh

the soul roams at will and the dead man roars

as when he rode reinless horses through revolutionary streets

carriage crash and wooden limb

lame armed and one legged

did the ladies love his bones to death

while he laughed


up the once cypressed ridge to grandmother’s i go

where the past is always present

musk of soup wisp of ghost

the last trees lean like pale gravestones

in a land where fruit once grew

a harvest of hopeful tenants

to sweat to freeze in aging apartments

to walk through each other’s railroad flat lives

the manorial house is another boxcar siding

subways tickle restless coffins


all is divine wisdom

what friendly consolation

leglessness so profusely argued

o to part with the other the amputee teased

and his son parted the manor

call the harlem the jordan he quipped

thus mott purchased his haven and the foundry fumed

in the shadows of saint ann’s church morris lingers

in the promised land

where tenements rise to burn and crumble


to have traveled so far

to have loved so many

to be buried in the bronx

a landmark in a lost paradise

continental congress and reign of terror

caustic wit and a taste for pleasure

the churchyard cannon has disappeared

did they steal that too

children run from the past

sticks rattle the cemetery fence


we too are lovers from ancient families

which prosper and impoverish and wander

celestial plan or random rambling we survive

when death loosens our limbs what land will we haunt

we who rejoice and rebel and enjoy what we may

what sardonic spirit beneath the pavement sprouts

saplings through the rubble of razed streets

grandfather’s corpse grinned at the priest who said his eulogy

is it life or is it death that is absurd

those drums those drums those hysterical dead skins

beyond the crying tenements

sometimes moments of great beauty

minor memories of lives never lived slip

through venetian blinds to revive

wallpaper flowers in late sun

linoleum fresh as the lawn

of a great manor on a spring evening

such sweet shade before sunset

a hint of long lost dew

the sweat of creation

in this rent controlled apartment which

my ancestors painted and died

i am too young to worry

i have not been born

but float with the spirits

through trees morris planted

an immigrant arboretum

beyond the crying tenements

the avenue has drowned

the brook flows from the valley

where my lost body walks

like the incarnation of a forgotten god

in a land with no name

Audio & text:  concrete pastures of the beautiful bronx  part II

Click the triangle to listen to the poem while you read it.

concrete pastures of the beautiful bronx is available as an e-publication from Smashwords:


nightmare off bruckner boulevard

webster avenue

scratch park

off southern boulevard

the dharma express

the bronx vikings


gouverneur morris laughs from his grave

beyond the crying tenements