maples forever

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


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

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pastoral esplanades

ferry point park

crossing invisible streams

saint jude’s bazaar

the subway grating fisherman

pastoral esplanades

pastoral esplanades were the streets where we played

o the hills o the dales o happily

bleating we lamb gamboled

the concrete pastures of the beautiful bronx

woolly wild we ran and feared no fate

frenzied frivolous too young to be damned

though pedestrians panicked and cursed death’s shepherd

would not fleece us

and glorious the metermen jingled and glorious the metermaids sang

in metered bush beneath steel bough of streetlight

echoing with sylvan joy the festive tenements

where dionysian oracles staggered and moaned

o did shopping bag ladies murmur melancholy strains

o were fire escapes ancient pathways to olympus

over the lofty rooftops jets droned like warring titans

and promethean tears rained upon the caucasian skyline

in the lush of this asphalt arcady did we leap

amuck with wonder and joy at the lovely world

we will never grow old we will never grow weary

of sailing the winds of summer never

behold the triborough bridge sleeping

like cerberus across the hell gate

ferry point park

we may turn our backs

on housing project and cemetery

pretend to see the ocean

beyond gulls cawing over the sound

really the restless east river

which ebbs and flows whirling with tides

from sunrise to hell gate

but the horizon is the whitestone bridge

a turquoise arch suspended overhead

vibrant with hum of car and truck and seabound wind

there are no white stones

no ferries

dad and i fished here once

no fish

just empty fields and a busy bridge

and waves to tangle bait amid the boulders

that prop up a land of landfills

and buttress the buttresses of a long road

which crosses even the sky

to the green suburban shores

of queens beyond unswimmable waters

and westchester creek

its half sunk rusted barge

aglow and unmoving in the bronx sun

temporarily triumphant

in its long war with eternity

while we forget the lives which keep us apart

and stand together father and son

new york’s skyline lost in the southwest haze

strangely alone and strangely united

in the awkward peace which blows

just beyond our daily world

with nothing to say and no need to speak

on the shore of the land of our birth

beyond a sea of ancestors

one to die here one to leave

but we do not think of the future

and a narrow strip of beach amid the rocks

where footprints wash away

and that bridge

with the promise of there being someplace to go

and the clouds

and a sky towering over the towers

with the promise of heaven

the subway grating fisherman

i am a subway grating fisherman

everything i can imagine is down there

slightly below the sidewalk

in subterranean gills

slightly out of reach

beneath steel waves

on the cement shores of the abyss

of eternal boredom

such is youth

a stringed magnet

the glisten of hope in the sludge

to be caught by a patient hand

and desperate faith in the renewal

of the familiar

let the big boys fish

with hot bubble gum or cold vaseline

for what coin falls from the rich

i haul in the bottle caps

which no one wants

so beautifully


maples forever

i hope the maples are still there

and the wading pool and monkey bars

the little playground off brook avenue

leafy maples that hide alleys and backyards

the gray windows of sweaty kitchens

curtained bedrooms for the weary to rest

and shade the sandbox and the sidewalk checkerboard

thirteen squares the center is dead man’s land

we shoot bottle caps from number to number

a game of skully beneath rustling leaves

beyond the branches are schools

that teach how not to be young

industry feeds educated workers

the american dream not dreaming artists

what we draw in chalk will wash away

fantasies fade in the fluorescence of technology

money is real the sky but a blue

emptiness of untouchable clouds

and a drizzle of maple pods spiraling down

slow and steady and fruitless upon the asphalt

future forests blowing away

like the wonders of childhood

crossing invisible streams

school teaches all a nuclear man must know



purple mountains

bloody plains

but this land is mystery

submerged in sidewalk

the forgotten earth

the stream of smooth stones

mosholu mosholu

it babbles off the tongue

mosholu mosholu

stream of smooth stones

native americans named it

and vanished like the water

street signs mock the history beneath our feet

hills hidden by tenements

invisible streams trapped in sewers

mortar and brick

cement and stone

the landscape is a mutation of the inanimate

mosholu parkway the reality we know so well

parkway parkway

mowed grass embanks the asphalt

the tarmac is a free fire zone

where they wait to break our bones

they who are not at war overseas

ready to run their cars over our sneakers

to shove us with their bumpers

just for laughs

they will catch reruns of lucy

before the nightly news

they have color televisions

better to see the blood with

jungle blood street blood

black and white and yellow

the blood is red

redder than lucy’s hair

the real world is bloodier

than john wayne movies

we gather to charge

like hollywood indians we yell

but we do not cry

we will survive

eight thousand boys

dewitt clinton high school’s

wary students learning america

the largest boys’ school short of the army

there are no green lights

no negotiations

no plans but instinct

this is the war of generations

and we have come to do battle

where the lost stream runs

invisible as innocence

it begins with a few bold scouts

a spearhead of impromptu volunteers

then we swarm the cars

no one says let’s go

we just do

a battalion of boys who simply want to go home

dodging impatient commuters

grandmothers in mustangs who seek revenge

on wayward youth

housewives out for a few thrills

businessmen too busy to join the war

o how they love the action

but they can’t bash all of us all the time

we will survive

we ford the highway

the city lies ahead

safety is in the herd and we stampede the trail

through mosholu park

a few trees mowed grass an old name

benches where veterans

play chess and handicap horses

here traitors ambush us

a barrage of stones and pennies

we are many and desperate

they are few and they flee

we overrun the wall

up the ancient el station’s stairs

to fall is perilous

our feet are young

we hurl our momentum

at gates and turnstiles

surly cops with clubs and guns

check subway passes

cull those to search

for weapons and draft cards

most of us are deemed

only old enough for football

the army may want us someday

but the conductor does not

he closes electronic doors on our mortal necks

while our buddies help us aboard

all we have is each other

we pack into the train

restless and weary and rowdy as soldiers on leave

deploying to tenements and projects

warm girl friends and minimum wage jobs

the rails cross the bronx skyline

steel stanchions rooted

in the stream that became jerome avenue

the woodlawn train begins at the cemetery

and disappears into the ground

woodlawn woodlawn

trees and tombstones on the lawns of death

war memorials remember the fallen

do the dead learn

the secrets of the land beneath the asphalt

do they wander

the lost paradise of the bronx

there will be new wars

there will be new warriors

the tunnel leads to wall street

the heart of america

like our parents we are

ceaseless commuters

carried by unrelenting wheels

we too love the dauntless lucy

and admire the streamlined cars

that race through the commercials

which fund the nightly news

where officers of the peace

beat peaceful demonstrators

and the war continues to bring peace to vietnam

police bleed

protesters bleed

soldiers bleed

civilians bleed

but most endure

we watch the blood

we await our futures

alone in hopeful fear

we are young warriors wandering

the asphalt concrete wilderness

we are young warriors crossing

invisible streams to survive

saint jude’s bazaar

money comes and goes but gimcrackery is forever

we toss coins on lucky numbers

we are nickel and dime gamblers

on the great wheel of fortune

hopelessly lost in ordinary lives

in toil and worry

in the ebb and flow of currency

summers of sweat

cold tenement winters

days of work nights of dreams

life must be better

in the suburbs we watch on television

the suburbs which are always

just beyond the next river

we have crossed the harlem

but we have not been transformed

we seek the impossible but savor trifles

we have passed through the darkness

into a place of noise and light

the church is empty

the basement smells of sawdust and beer

it’s las vegas night the local parishioners

pray to beat the house

they win they lose they cycle

through various heavens and hells and emerge

happy to be on earth

only mildly hung over

only moderately broke

they join us in the playground carnival

here pocket change can become

tangible trophies of good fortune

here the game tents are full

of plastic toys of plaster lamps

radios ashtrays stuffed animals

pen knives and cigarette lighters

and the wheels spin

and the wheels spin

the ferris wheel turns and turns

cotton candy winds out of sticky machines

people walk round and round

shedding money as they go

summer is spinning away

autumn nights are long and cool

that geisha lamp will brighten them

that stuffed bear will bring warmth

when the furnace is broken when the super is drunk

when the landlord did not pay the fuel bill and there is no heat

and in the midwinter darkness i will see it again

see it as i do each year at the ten o’clock raffle

a heavenly vision over upturned faces

the crowd silent the ferris wheel still

passengers swaying in the starless haze

the tickets are turned in a clear rotisserie

rising and falling and rising again

hope burns in the night

the adults look grim but the children

grasp the impossible

the children whose imaginations are more vivid

than the sticky asphalt crowded

with the odds that are against them

the priest slowly climbs the steps

the priest bares his innocent arm

the priest unlocks the door to eternal childhood

and raises the chosen one to the sky

from above a voice pronounces the numbers

the winner comes forth to fulfill

the dreams of the multitude

white stubs rain down from losing hands

there is nothing to do but return to the bronx

and i will see it again and again

when i am old and my knees are bad and my hair is falling out

the big red bicycle

a made in america schwinn

hand brakes

gears to shift

on this i will ride

through an imaginary childhood

down tree lined streets

neighbors will smile and wave

i will have friends and we

will fish and play baseball

in little league teams with uniforms

and ride our bicycles home for lunch

and year after year we make the pilgrimage

to saint jude’s bazaar

and the big red bicycle raffle

one dollar a ticket but i never win

and year by year i realize

how foolish it would be

to ride this bicycle through the bronx

dodging trucks and bicycle bandits

and i have no friends to protect me

father wins a car

uncle hits the number and buys a mustang

but we never leave the bronx

we always return to the treeless streets

the tenement has not been incinerated

the apartment has not been burglarized

when we turn on the lights

the roaches make a polite exit

and life is as beautiful

as it would be anywhere

there is food in the refrigerator

there is love at the table

and i have not been killed

defending my big red bicycle from street gangs

in my room the calcium paint has chipped

white craters float like clouds

and the streetlight shines like the moon

at dawn heat rises through the radiators

hot water flows through the pipes

teddy bear has gone

to teddy bear heaven

the oriental lamps are hooked

to automatic timers to fool burglars

i follow the american dream

i work hard buy a house and a rusting chevy

i play the state lottery

the odds look good to a poet

at sunrise i walk to stretch the stiffness from my joints

my number has not come up

and i believe in miracles

they are everywhere

in the hope

in the suffering

in the fluttering emptiness of the suburban morning