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wrrodriguez.com

wrrodriguez.com

two stanzas from roosevelts bust


concrete pastures of the beautiful bronx

A Review of  Concrete Pastures of the Beautiful Bronx


Concrete Pastures of the Beautiful Bronx is a sustained poetic meditation on the Bronx of Rodriguez’s childhood and youth. These poems lyrically evoke the Bronx realities of the “promised land”—its people, ancestors, ghosts, tenements, streets, cemeteries, landlords, police, laborers, poverty, baseball, “the secrets of the land beneath the asphalt” and, above all, the joy and exuberance of the young. Rodriguez’s poems are immediate and keenly felt. His arena is the human soul and its dreams, sorrows, anguish, loneliness, hungers, fears and love. He expresses a patience with America, “nation of immigrants,” as rare as the beauty his poetry uncovers in the slums of the Bronx.

                        ...such is youth

                        a stringed magnet

                        the glisten of hope in the sludge

                        to be caught by a patient hand...                 

                                            “the subway grating fisherman”


—Ingrid Swanberg

    Editor, Abraxas                

Sample poems from Concrete Pastures of the Beautiful Bronx

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

or desperate faith in the renewal

of the familiar

let the big boys fish

with hot bubblegum or cold vaseline

for what coin falls from the rich

i haul in the bottlecaps

which no one wants

so beautifully

ordinary

greet the saviors

so many willing to throw stones

at so few

before despair there is hope

which flickers away

save the apartments we desperately need

the building beside the church

is torched one winter night

the top two floors lost

before the ladder is raised

five stories overhead the lone fireman

directs the hose

he is a silver angel

in the white spotlight

the orange flames

the black sky

the brown smoke

it is all just another insurance payout

a cheap eviction of unwanted tenants

this is the incense

of the church of the bronx

charred tenement skeletons

stand like sentinels of death

acres of crumbled brick and broken glass

fill for years with garbage s

weeds grow amidst the rot

faint promise of a green life

the trash is set ablaze

these are the prairies of the slums

where wild dogs scavenge

and there is wailing

and gnashing of teeth

we make our offerings

and we eat the divine

we are blessed and are sent

into the stark sunlight

of bronx streets

at the bakery the cinnamon buns

are still warm

mother perks the coffee

and sends me out to play

in my shiny red

little fire engine

and i roar up and down

but the arsonists are sleeping

and there is no one to save

my little red fire engine

i sit i steer i pedal

toward imaginary disasters

as though i were important

but today no kids are out

to save from the flames

too hot this august morning

for many emergencies

this holy day of obligation

at early mass the stone walls

of saint luke’s church

chill the bronx heat

señoras in black dresses

finger rosaries

the last irish knights of columbus

guard lonely pews

priestly latin drifts

through the morning peace

firemen beside the holy water

on the threshold are ready

to scramble but the alarm

does not ring

the offertory bells

startle all to salvation

hook and ladder 29

just across the street

its art nouveau facade

wondrous to a young boy

searching for heroes

and glory

engines shiny

freshblood red behind

a trinity of corniced arches

prepared to rescue all

from mortal infernos

nothing burns

devotional candles melt with prayer

the priest’s homily

is in the vernacular

heaven is heaven and hell is hell

earth is the mystery to me

o for the paradise years

before riots and assassinations

and the arson that burns

through the safety of sleep

brickbats bottles the rage of the mob


my little red fire engine

saint judes 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

its 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 judes 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


Concrete Pastures of the Beautiful Bronx

Zeugpress

2008

ISBN: 978-0-9632201-2-7

Perfect bound, 80 pp.

https://www.lulu.com/spotlight/wrrodriguez


the bootblack


the bootblack

neither

creates the shoe

nor kills the cow


has no theories

but the preservation

of leather

and the soul’s thin hide


burnishes a small

part of the world

pounding wonder

from the mundane


clodhoppers

loafers

wing tips

combat boots


the legendary

puerto rican fence climbers

pumps and

police brogues


reality is unique

as a world worn foot

these walking streets

are beautiful


Concrete Pastures of the Beautiful Bronx

Zeugpress: Smashwords Edition

2014

ISBN:  9781310352171

E-publication

www.smashwords.com/books/view/490854

simmering spices waft

from grandmother’s kitchen

she smokes her cigar

she watches the stove

talks to dad alone

incomprehensible castilian

the tin ceiling yellow as chicken skin

soup slowly cooking

an aroma so divine

even statues hunger

mom roots and razzes

bronx cheers

italian damnations

spanish rhythms

grandfather’s laughter

such intonations of love

and baseball are universal

only god and government

and grandma’s recipe

for wonder remain

eternal mysteries


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

www.smashwords.com/books/view/490854



a lean stern eyed sharp nosed

ivory fdr

dim alley window light

never open shade

railroad flat dining room

that green sofa

where nana will die

that sagging armchair

poppop supervising the yankees

black and white on the gray

long head short body

worn tube television

the table sturdy as

his smiling deathbed spirit

that maddens the priest

my cardboard circus

the crocheted lace tablecloth

sunday funnies and cereal box cutouts

my world is flat but very colorful

orphan annie and dondi

always survive