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wrrodriguez.com

the push and break and chase of it

forbidden places


in all the forbidden places

like round the corner

and too far up the block

and up and down the you'll fall from it fire escape

and across the bad boy bad girl rooftops

of fertile pigeons and antenna thieves


through the sinister shadows of subway stations

and beware of dogs junkies

and the drunken super

basements

through the unexplored side streets of childhood

my mind wanders


that musk of the living

and dying tenement compels me

the gloom of alley and airshaft

the glow of sunlight on brick

i must navigate asphalt rivers

i must trek the broken glass


graffitied mainland to reach

the cement heart of the interior

and i will not return

i am the great explorer forever lost

in the concrete wilderness

i will discover america


flowering in the rubble






a moon full and cold


there was a moon full and cold

and i was a child in the big wide

unwanderable world

kept safe by my parents and warm

while the radiator with its ancient scales

of cracked paint hissed like a tame dragon


through the green forests

and brown fields of footworn linoleum

plastic soldiers advanced from their beachhead

to conquer the living room or to die in glorious battle

cowboys and indians skirmished at fort apache

alien spacecraft landed and robots ran amok


gallant knights with british accents

rode forth from castle walls to great adventure

fighting firebreathing worms and other strange creatures

so the countryside would be safe for travelers

and a child might sleep in bed and fear no harm

there was no gore just valor and victory and i


was general or prince or hero

anything is possible in the moonlight

this is the moon that shone over stalingrad

when death oozed through the rubble

this is the moon that glowed over the balcony

when romeo swore his love and juliet was enchanted


a leafless lifeless moon amid the tarpaper sky

which rose above the rooftops which shrouded our souls

shining white beyond empty streets and unlit windows

beyond unseen sleepers and reason and dream

a moon bright and distant

as a future as a friend as a life beyond the immediate


i pressed my nose to the windowpane and saw the moon

looming over lovers and battlefields

i wanted to sit forever in its light

to drink in the heavens to drown in wonder

ecstatic and enraptured

sated and thirsting for more


the fearless loveless bloodless moon

beyond the who and what and where of the sun's despair

its stark chill beckoned unanswerable






just another new york city subway near death experience


116th street and lexington avenue

three of us in the subway car

like some underground golgotha

when mister death walks in

not looking too kindly

we are not feeling immortal today

he is six feet tall he is five feet wide

he can sit anywhere he wants

but he stands right over me

cold eyes solemn mouth

in one hand a thick belt

dangles like a scythe

(the other holds the commuter strap

for proper balance because giants

do not like to tumble before their prey)

as the train rocks along

like the history of western civilization

which is irrelevant at this moment

of imminent doom

his eyes do not blink

his mouth does not smile

(i have lost my sense of humor

and all other sensation)

that immense hand

that mysterious belt

dangling in my peripheral vision

like a glimpse of heaven beyond pain

i cannot speak

i cannot run

the enormous gray clad arm

moves and the belt

taps my knee

taps my knee three times

his eyes do not move

i do not move

nor think nor feel

i have transcended

humanity in a subway tunnel beneath spanish harlem

and he walks off

to the next passenger

and taps his knee

three times then on to the next

three times and there are only three passengers

so he lumbers into the next car

searching for knees

and i feel like sir gawain released by the green knight

introspective and glad to be alive

i am young and i have learned

that experience is not unique

that the inevitable is

sometimes avoidable though i don't know how

and that for a mere fifteen cent token i can wander

forever searching for the man who taps knees

but when a voice says  shoot boy it was just another

new york city subway near death experience

i remember that i was going to play basketball and maybe

talk to some girls afterwards though i am

a lousy shot and terribly

socially awkward






yankee kitchen


there are paintings of quaint towns by the sea

and clippers slicing windswept waters

wood trim and white bricks

a touch of new england in new york

with a whiff of chowder on the menu

harbored next to a massive gray church

where angels watch over the world

and the monstrance shines over the globe

and the winged herald on the corner wields a trumpet

louder than all the taxicabs on lexington avenue

if only we could hear it

but we sail the winds and waves of adolescence

and drift back to this modest diner

with its patina of grease and nicotine

to listen to ourselves and feast

upon just being friends

in that delicious time

before the future pulls us apart

and we become like the pedestrians beyond the window

scurrying to love to money to fashionable

restaurants or dive bars

honking like traffic at anything in the way

some of us will make the angels cry

some will just wander off

into life but for now

we have nothing to do but sit

together and sip our sodas until the ice

turns to water while ralph

the aged waiter with the patience of a saint

lean and drawn like the farmer in  american gothic

and a loving smile pretends not to see

jerry use his straw to shoot spitballs at the good

citizens of nantucket so purposefully

portrayed in oil amid the rustic wooden frame

while in the infernal heat of the kitchen

the anonymous infamous fry cook grills

hamburgers cheeseburgers and anything we can afford

we do not know his name but we call him

genghis khan because legend has it he once

charged from the grill waving a butcher knife

at a customer who complained

so we laugh and to the last

lick of grease eat clean the bone

white plates of our hungry

youth






the beach beneath the bridge


a strip of sand and stone

between overgrown grass and gray water

white suburban homes mottle the leaves

of a distant shore

thirteen years old our footprints

are pools in the mud

we walk away

from parents and baseballs

there are mussels and driftwood

a horizon and a sky

ashes of bonfires burnt out

like the passion of night's lovers

the beach is awash with a love we barely understand

the smell of lowtide mud and brine

there is no going back not yet

the uncertain future ebbs and flows

now beneath the bronx sun we run and laugh

and stumble in the cold dark waves






after seeing night of the living dead


stiffarmed we limp across the commons

they're coming to get you barbara

we yell from dormitory bushes

on this hallowed ground

where edgar allan poe

once haunted the jesuits

but no one is scared so we

stagger into the pub to bend

our elbows till dawn

pretending to be

cinema heroes and poets

and in the platonic light of day

when we are only ourselves

they up and run

premeds

junior accountants

student politicians

literally up and run

they conform so well

we not at all

they will flourish and prosper

we will write and paint and teach

and grow old paying bills

starving for the days

and nights when we

roamed the gothic campus

young alive hungry

liberal arts

rebels






on the coping


atop the parapet

of a five story walk-up

on the outer edge

of coping


he stands

fifty feet in the air

upon the smooth

downward slope of tile


his kite soars

a soul

in search of heaven

and he smiles


childhood stops

children gaze

with upturned

wondering eyes


there must be angels

in the clouds

a miracle flutters

overhead


the eternity

of a summer afternoon

the immortality of youth

the timeless awe


those black sneakers

on the brink

of doom

and suddenly


a jump

a blind

backwards leap

onto the tarpaper roof


the kite

sports in the wind

and he descends

creaky stairs


to the rest of his life

to be found years later

jaundiced

needle scarred


dead in the stench

of an unlit doorway






liberation: the brook avenue parking meter quartet


I

the war droned

air america

deathdrugs

slumlord decadence

nightsticks and headblood


nor freedom from ourselves

eternities of tenements

work

sweat

survival


rentstrike

riot

petition

so many nouns and verbs

yet the poor are always among us



II

the resignation

of sun on concrete

the protest wind

of winter apartments

life is the struggle to live


brook avenue is indifferent

to saint and thief

time and space are money

taxation inevitable

and the city will take its tithe


we labor we sleep we dream

we awaken to parking meters

parking meters on brook avenue

where the sewerburied stream flows

invisible as hope



III

where orchards once grew

now stark

silver moneytrees

eat the fruit of our labor

we pay to park and we pay


for the means to make us pay

coinboxes are stolen

and we pay for replacements

by day we spend

by night we are robbed


dime by thin roosevelt dime

from weary hands

our wealth trickles

through treacherous currents

to the ocean of greed



IV

midnight's entrepreneur

is an invisible

lumberjack

hacking a trail of steel stumps

through urban wilderness


a cycle of thievery

and fruitless reforestation

meters reappear

to disappear again

and again and again


and again until

the city withdraws

from this war of attrition

no more parking meters

no more parking meter thief


the avenue is free

as a babbling brook


o liberation






justice


a youth grabbed an old woman's purse fat with tissues and aspirin and such sundries as old women carry in sagging purses a desperate youth nice enough not to beat her head bloody into the sidewalk as muggers of the feeble often do for the fun of it i suppose and he ran up the hill but one of the perennial watchers watched it all from her window the purseless old woman in slow pursuit yelling such curses as it takes old women a lifetime to learn but it was too dangerous too futile the silent watcher knew to call the police who might come and rough up someone they did not like just for the fun of it i suppose or who would talk polite and feel mad inside and roll their eyes because there was really nothing they could do and there were murders and assaults to handle so this silent angry watcher carelessly but carefully dropped flower pots from her fourth floor windowsill garden one crashing before one behind and the third hitting him on the head a geranium i suppose and closed her window while the huffing grateful old woman looked up at the heavens to thank the lord and when she finally calmed down she walked off with her purse laughing and leaving the youth to awaken in the blue arms of the law and do you know two smiling cops walked up all those stairs to warn the watcher that if she weren't more careful with her plants she would get a ticket for littering i suppose






she is leaving but


she is leaving but

pauses a moment

before the great

overhead thud

our upstairs neighbors

like to play so they wrestle

the burly father

the burly son

and the takedown

takes down the ceiling


my amazed aunt had turned to talk

stopped at the french doors

on the threshold of doom

by mundane words

a second before bricks

and whiskey bottles

left by turn of the century

italian plasterers

and genuine plaster

crash in a dusty thud


she laughs to see

a leg poking through

she laughs to be standing

in our living room

an oasis with green sofa and chair

art deco end tables and console television

she laughs just to be alive

in a rent controlled apartment

in the south bronx

where no one escapes death


and she laughs






what could have more impact than a bus


what could have more impact than a bus

boasted the bus on a bus long fluorescent sign

advertising advertising space along the roof

of this new bus and its new bus brethren

who bore the plastic banners of big corporations

making big bucks from this richest

and poorest of cities

but galloping buses are not pedestrians

to be tamed with words and money and this rare

soon to be extinct

what could have more impact than a bus  bus

with a bellyful of passengers and its fluorescent plastic strip

sped past the bright shops and dark taverns

along third avenue where once

the great sad eyed el roared

and rattled tenement windows

and this rare soon to be extinct

what could have more impact than a bus  bus

right outside the seventy-sixth street flophouse

where nightly floppers staggered home

amid swinging staggering singles

in the very crosswalk where daily the ancient monsignor

damn near ran out of breath while we wondered

how long he had left how many months or minutes

until he could no longer hobble to safety

before the light turned and he would be caught

in the stampede of uptown traffic and be killed

while we watched like the crowd at calvary

and did nothing to save him

we would carry the guilt to our graves

we would suffer gruesome memories

we would sweat through grisly nightmares

but he died quietly in his sleep

and the angels carried him away

and we were just streetcorner losers

with time to kill

then one day this rare soon to be extinct

what could have more impact than a bus  bus

caught in mid escape a white pigeon

white as a baptismal gown white as a stained

glass window dove on a sunny sunday morning

a rare aberration of the prolific pigeons

those fellow gray loiterers

whose droppings whitewashed the steeples

of the church that spiked its windowsills

and swept up wedding rice before the flock could partake

a rare white winged apparition

caught like any of us might have been

by this rare soon to be extinct

what could have more impact than a bus  bus

and it fell wide eyed

its feathers drifting slowly

spiraling white and red onto the asphalt

ground down by car after car until

even the blood disappeared

and the flying spirit disintegrated into the busy world

outside the dive bar beneath the flophouse

that will die and be reborn

in a paradise of condominiums and upscale cafes

with no room for the congregation

the aged priest may have been trying to save

with no room for elevated trains

or bored teenage boys

there was prophecy and revelation and the promise

of eternity and we knew

we too might grow old someday

if we were that lucky






plaza of the undented turtle


sirens

red lights

angry cops

the gold car speeds

down avenue

c and swerves

onto the sidewalk

through the plaza

scattering

the twelfth street midnight

beer drinkers and slams

head-on into the shell

of the beloved

cement turtle

while the skyline sparkles

postcard pretty

outside our window

ten stories above

as we watch this drama

just another city night

just another summer street

just another urban legend

seeking anonymity

reality entertains

when it happens to others and

the door flies open

the foot race begins

run driver run

from police

run police run

into the night

flow river flow

to the mysterious sea

who knows

how it ends

is there justice

on dark streets

red lights gather and vanish

gather and vanish

all life long

blood bleeds

bullets kill

the turtle

does not cry

the pontiac

has chosen to remain silent

then the impounding officer

starts the engine

it purrs it revs and it's off

to automobile prison

there is no reporter

asking the cop at the wheel

about inanimate

reincarnation

it really does

have a phoenix

painted on the hood

there is irony

to fulfill

tragedy

lust

love and laughter

babies will surface from the womb

to crawl to walk to climb

searching

for the ecstasy of heaven

now the undented turtle sleeps

beneath the electric hum

of the power plant which may

or may not explode

with a hiss and a fireball

and a boom like the big bang

as if the universe were created anew

on the lower east side

and we are lucky just to breathe

amid the smoke and the screams

and we are lucky to survive

the chaos of night

and the turtle waits for the warm sun

for the silly day for the children

to play like creatures

on the back

of the great

creator

god






avenue b, 14th street, looking south


there is a place when

there is a moment where

crossing the street

all the streetlights stretching south

and all the traffic lights

align in rows

that would converge but for

some distant building

and i think i must be

exactly in the middle

of the street but i know

the world is too crooked

for that






the push and break and chase of it


three men push a broken car down the street.

a dog chases them.


three dogs push a broken man down the street.

a car chases them.


three cars push a broken dog down the street.

a man chases them.


three men, three cars, three dogs

push each other down the street,

chase each other,

break each other.


no, no, we must not upset the order,

said the car who was really three cars who had chased the dogs.


a little innovation is in order every now and then,

said the man who was really three men who had chased the cars.


do we not constitute a microcosm of the universal flux

from order to disorder to the establishment of a new order

to be set to chaos?

said the dog who was really three dogs who had chased the men

and who now chased cars

following a wholly new ordering

of ordinary

affairs.





on the coping




Audio & text:  from the  banks of brook avenue   section I


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




after seeing night of the living dead

justice

avenue b, 14th street, looking south

what could have more impact than a bus

plaza of the undented turtle

just another new york city subway near death experience

a moon full and cold

from the banks of brook avenue  is available as an e-publication from Smashwords

www.smashwords.com/books/view/577626





forbidden places

yankee kitchen

she is leaving but

liberation: the brook avenue parking meter quartet

the beach beneath the bridge