the shoe shine parlor poems et al

Reviews of   the shoe shine parlor poems et al

Laurel Speer.  Remark, Number 4, Fall 1991.  p. 6. “I had read William Rodriguez’s The Shoe  Shine Parlor Poems  several years ago. Happily, the book is still in print and very much available for sale from Ghost Pony Press, one of the ‘good parts’ of having one’s book published by a conscientious and caring small press. Rodriguez has a mixed ancestry of Spanish, Puerto Rican and Italian. In the opening poem of this collection, he tells us how his forebears came to the South Bronx, where his maternal (Italian) grandfather set up the family business, a shoe shine parlor:

‘i worked there seven years     sweating/reading plato’s symposium     tristram shandy/playboy magazines between shines/not speaking spanish or italian but laughing anyway/at the customers’ dirty jokes.’  

I’ll have to give credit to anyone who could read Tristram Shandy  anywhere, much less while snapping rags and plying brushes shining shoes. Rodriguez goes on to give us vivid images of the characters, ambiance, streets, his family members and inner feelings about the external sights and sounds he recreates so concretely for us in his lyrical poetry.  One wouldn’t think that such subjects as police brutality, drug addicts and marginal bums (to the outside eye) would much lend themselves to lyricism.   And yet his poetry has a lilt and sweep that lifts his subject material to a level of celebration and song without any false patina of leaving things out or  shining us on...."

Mary Ilario.  The Bronx County Historical Society Journal, vol. xxvii, no. 2, Fall 1990. p. 82. “Mr. Rodriguez’s poetry is not pretty.  It takes you where you don’t want to go.  You sit with him on a stoop in the South Bronx and observe a world of quiet despair.  The erratic rhythm of his poems evokes images sharp as photographs.  You meet the people of his world, a world filled with casual violence and brutality.  Mr. Rodriguez does not waste words.  His poem,  “The Long Walk to Bed,” takes up one quarter of a single page and fills every corner of your mind.  No, his poetry is not at all pretty, but it is very beautiful.  I think you will find it well worth reading, even if you don’t like poetry.”

Rochelle Lynn Holt.  The Pilot (Southern Pines, NC) , Aug. 90.   “The poet-teacher grew up in the Bronx, the source of his first poetry book.  The book and guide are helpful for teachers planning a unit on poetry that is diversified and representative of various regions and ethnic groups in the U. S.   There are poems that are universal despite their environmental ties like ‘Weeds’ ... ‘we are sad weeds who watch cities rise like tombstones from the graves/of our ancestors...we are weeds we dream of freedom.’  ‘ The Shoe Shine Poem’ really happened, according to the writer in his Teacher’s Guide which provides a Poet’s Intro, Vocab, Concrete and Abstract Thinking questions along with a creative task.   ‘i tell ya man/i finished the shine/& as he got off the stand/i saw a gun in his belt/i started praying/as he reached for his wallet...’  As  he says in his Preface, ‘the adolescent responds best to the individual message and personality of an author as expressed through narrative characterization or lyrical outcry.’ Single-authored poetry books in school may be the wave of the future.”

Warren Woessner.  A View from the Loft.  Date unknown, @ 1986.  p. 4.  Recommended Reading:  “Sharp-edged poems about growing up in the south Bronx, where ‘night calls the ghost of spice/fried fish and incense /to dance out the windows.’”

The Fessenden Review, vol. ten, no. four, 1985.  p. 58.   Books In Brief:  ssppea  rated very good content, ho-hum layout.  Reprinted “the day i threw thoreau off the roof.”

Samisdat.  1985.  pp. 19-20.  Poetic Injustice: “. . . ssppea  presents a vivid slice of life in  Spanish Harlem (sic), albeit hard to read because of his highly eccentric verse form.  Each poem offers a different voice, from those who’ve established themselves somehow early  in the book, to a Central American refugee toward the end: ‘day and night they disappear...they disappear/some beaten on side streets in the afternoon/while the children are in school studying history/some dragged screaming from their lovers’ arms/before the newborn moon can open its eye...’   ‘Little Spic’  becomes a macho hero for braining a racist mugger in desperate terror.   Frank the former boxer successfully sues the narcs who nearly kill him for the hell of it (or because they lost a bet.)  Another cop clubs old Jim the black janitor unconscious, without provocation in the wake of a riot, but Jim refuses to sue because he believes in law ‘n order.  But it’s not all grim violence.  A smart-alec kid prays for sneakers in front of an old lady, while a buddy drops a pair into his hands from above--a purported miracle.”

making it

great grandfather burned some government office

in some spanish town        made it to puerto rico

hiding in jungles        huts        from wanted posters

& police        must’ve hid pretty well because

somehow grandfather made it to new york

rolling cigars        surviving the depression        & me

putting dirt in his pipe        sitting always

by the television        watching yankee games

never cheering        smiling sometimes

dying in a railway flat

on cypress avenue where he lived twenty years

in the south bronx

where my mother also lived        forty years

met my father        married        sent him to wall street

each day dressed in the suit he wore

even on saturdays

while she stayed home

remembering to me her father        the handsome

little italian        who also made it to philadelphia

then to new york        the south bronx        sweeping speakeasies

founding the family business

the shoe shine parlor

i worked there seven years        sweating

reading plato’s symposium        tristram shandy

playboy magazines between shines

not speaking spanish or italian but laughing anyway

at the customers’ dirty jokes

never listening

even if they spoke english        mind never there

body pushing brushes        burning two-&-a-half-cent cigars

mind someplace else        in riverdale        la rive gauche

in bed with the playmate of the month

in that spanish town a hundred years ago

but always

someplace else

the cop                                                          originally appeared in  Epoch

one week he was a movie star

dyed his hair blond        quite unusual

for a puerto rican        & he strolled

up & down 138th  street        smiled

gave autographs        & occasionally

a 3x5 glossy

suddenly he was a cop        the only one

i ever saw walk a beat in our neighborhood

138th & 137th        brook avenue        saint ann’s

even brown place in a regulation blue uniform     

shoes shined        night stick twirling        a tin badge

& cap guns in a cowboy holster

every night he guarded the newsstand till it closed

got a free paper        & walked the newsman home

saturday afternoons the children followed him

the men who sat on milk boxes        playing dominoes

drinking beer     talking about the cock fights

would yell        hey officer        & ask directions

to places they were not going

or tell him of cars double parked around the corner

but he was a nice cop        gave accurate directions

did not give tickets     

& when the streetlights went out        he directed traffic

when the riots came        in the summer of 67

or 68        probably both        he was there

in the middle of 138th street        with a riot helmet

& his dime store guns        with five or six

hundred other cops        who chased the crowds up the block

or were chased        or who stood in doorways

watching the stores        dodging bricks                while he sat

on a friend’s car so it would not be overturned

once in a while someone would shout

rotten pig        and throw bottles at him

but they were always aimed to land

ten or twenty feet away

& i never saw a cop        smile

so much in a riot

the day i threw thoreau off the roof

was three days after a riot, was two days after our mayor toured the property damage, was a day after the radio told me i lived in a slum, was  my first day off work in months. the day i threw thoreau off the roof, was a hot day which melted the tar, was another day of the mosquitoes which bred in the backwater of the sewer our city would never fix and bit anything that could still bleed. the day i threw thoreau off the roof, was the angry day i refused to do my homework, was the happy day i watched yellow pages flutter down the airshaftlike poisoned pigeons.  the day i threw thoreau off the roof, was not up  to civil disobedience, was just sick of reading about those damn beans.

of bootblacks  (for al)

the eyes of bootblacks

do not see where shoes go

after they walk out of sight

the foreheads of bootblacks

recall the hides’ stains

and soles worn beneath the buff

the hair of bootblacks

is every color

their backs droop with the growing strength of age

the arms of bootblacks

snap the rag’s rhythm as hours dance

their feet seldom travel

yet are weary with the day's journey

the mouths of bootblacks

tell no lies

and speak the world’s tales

the ears of bootblacks

hear all within earshot

even when they do not listen

the hands of bootblacks

are calloused where brush joins flesh

their art is to pound

the grin of a thunderbolt

onto a landscape of bunion

and crease

Sample poems from the shoe shine poems et al

the shoe shine parlor poems et al

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ISBN: 9781310103322



the shoe shine parlor poems et al

second edition



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the shoe shine parlor poems et al

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The Shoe Shine Parlor Poems et al:

A Teachers Guide



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the shoe shine parlor poems et al: A Teachers Guide

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the shoe shine parlor poems et al

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Ghost Pony Press


ISBN 0-941160-08-4

Perfect bound, 48 pages

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