She came to me in my late twenties, when the two were mere babes, when life was still a promise yet fulfilled, when it seemed easier, simpler. Now she prods and pokes at me, her laughter mocking my efforts to stretch my psyche across the page for your entertainment.
She came in the night when my defenses were worn, and she attacked my senses until they bled. And the words grew from my college journals to Poetry Wednesday, to a box-sized table-top Philco Radio.
Often when the poet paints her words across the page, she uses the lightest touch, the faintest hint of colors, the soft hues of night, the splashes of seasons, the kaleidoscope of daylight playing in her head.
She might strike out, slash the page with her words, tear your heart with her sad songs, penetrate the nether regions of your brain to unleash the beast hidden in caverns where few may travel.
This is what I do when all efforts fail to shake me from the doldrums, the melancholy and non-productivity, some laughingly call “writer’s block.”
I don’t get blocked, I get crazy. Inside my senses dance and I go nuts. To celebrate this time with you, I am turning inward to my other persona … a young mother and her babes in arms …
I begin yet again …
Crazy on You, Heart
From Poetry Wednesdays:
I’ve tucked all the corners
Trimmed the edges
Brushed away the dust
That fell in the space you
Used to fill
Still you have not come
If it’s night and horizons dim
Softly melting into
Blue and gray
If it’s warm inside and
Sticky and sweet
Where is the sight of it
The taste of it
To fill a hungry soul?
A Silver Web …
I’ll practice every day
Until it becomes natural
Take up the task
Working harder each time
Obliterate every thought
And your real world
Until it intrudes on some cold
Morning when the dream has forgotten
The purpose and lets it in
Shattering the fragile silver web
Inside of me there is an
Un-Godly animal sound
It moans all through the night, Mama
And it keeps me running passed the boundaries
And over the fences
‘cept I don’t know where to, Mama
Where to ?
From the opening of … You turn me on … I’m a radio
Radio, told in her words, begins in 1951 when the little girl is seven years old and ends in 1958 when she is fourteen. To understand you need only imagine your entire world contained within a brown rectangular, tabletop Philco radio.
1951, A Treasure For Me …
My brother was a tinker, junk collector extraordinaire, who roamed along the docks adjacent to Brooklyn’s Bush Terminal in the neighborhood of Sunset Park, and found smashed in a junkyard, a decimated, yet salvageable treasure for me.
It traveled from the junk yard to the kitchen table whereupon it sat for an unknown number of months while my mother complained about the burdens of being the mother of a junk collector.
Do you have to do that on the kitchen table?
In a small, cold flat located on the third floor of a clapboard house, three rooms ran through a tunnel separated with two sets of French doors on either side of a long, narrow kitchen, hyphenated with a small hook in the front; a closet-sized-room with a window and an open doorway.
Our parents’ bedroom, located at the back of the house, contained my parent’s bed and mahogany dresser, my father’s old Victrola with crank and large 78-RPM records, and my brother’s homemade dark room. It was the place most of the laundry sat until it went either on an outside or inside clothesline. This inside clothesline was a mechanical device of immeasurable value to a crazy Italian housewife.
The kitchen contained our central heating, otherwise known as a coal-burning stove, where below heavy iron plates, the fires of hell burned and scared the be-Jesus out of me.
Inside the kitchen, a wall of three windows and a door enclosed a freezing cold bathroom with a pull tank and a claw-foot tub where not much hot water flowed. No one knew why there was a wall with three windows inside the apartment through which one could see from the kitchen into the bathroom.
To protect our privacy my mother covered the windows with café curtains that she then tacked along the edges. If anyone moved the curtains and dared to look, our mother smacked them with whatever she was holding.
Under the inside windows, from the back wall to beyond the bathroom door was our long, wooden kitchen table, usually covered in what was known as “oil” cloth with a felt backing. It came in patterns of large yellow daisies and other flower designs or gingham checks in bright red or blue, depending upon my mother’s mood when shopping in the Woolworth’s Five and Dime.
My father sat at the head of the table and next to him my mother, her back to the deep sink with washboard for scrubbing said clothes to hang on erstwhile mentioned inside or outside clothesline.
The eldest sat at the other end facing my father, and with his back to the bathroom wall, my middle brother sat, slouched in his seat, making faces at me. I was a Southpaw and sat to the left of my mother so I should not be in juxtaposition to anyone lest I knock over their drink while I ate.
The kitchen also contained an “ice box,” which overflowed onto the freezing cold linoleum floors. The refrigerator came in the next apartment along with a gas range and steam heat.
Between the sink and the ice box was a small food pantry with a glass door in front of which I danced while my mother told me to set the table, wash my hands, don’t jump so much or I’ll spit up my food, and her last-ditch effort …
Stop dancing, you’re driving me crazy.
… although on this day, still two years away from our first television, in our cold-flat apartment in Brooklyn, in the middle of a factory district, my brother gave me my own, personal, private radio.
It was a tabletop Philco with a lovely cherry wood finish, a special treasure with two large, round knobs for changing channels and controlling volume, and soft canvas material, behind which were the tubes and the speaker.
A radio with a horizontal AM dial that lit up in the dark, and a needle which traveled with lightening speed from one end of the world to the other, where you could even get a thrill and be welcome like the flowers on Mockin’bird Hill.
And that is where this story begins … in the fifties … at the beginning of the AM dial …
While I struggle with the angst of unpacking, editing, and revising two books … a mystery and not a mystery … I will continue to bring you the pages of my journals and the snippets of one crazy hell of a Brooklyn Tale.
How do you handle being a block-head?
Do you give in to the frustrations or fight back?
Tell me all. Misery loves company.
fOIS In The City