This is a three-part, longer narrative poem, seen
as old photographs that follow the main character, My Aunt, Lillian Goldrick, across two decades. It was written 30 years ago*
“Hey Kid!” Part I
Photographs aren’t fair
stopping the soul where it’s not
in rectangular guffaws
surrounded by serrated edges, pickets, teeth?
to fence and stab in yellow, soft-covered booklets
with designated floppy phrase
Happier than she could ever be...
A black and white day at Salisbury Beach, NH
hung over his hammock
Private pin-up girl
tilts her head against silver sheen of shoulder
Hair, dark chignon
except for a few wispy curls about her face
freed by wind
bleached by sun
...for three decades
Legs slightly bent—long extended
that could stop trains, stop traffic
Modest bathing suit, probably peach
cannot hide (not that she would)
And if there were question left
you could look at her smile—and love her
posed by he message scrawled in sand:
What kid? Where?
In the foreground?
In the camera’s eye?
In the background—
a Ferris wheel, a billboard
and r-i-g-h-t there—Can’t you see it?
Look again—behind her eyes
You can barely see it, but it’s there.
Only ten years before
It was April
Stroke, heart attack
Both of them gone, a year apart!
The priest came
Last Rites for mortally stricken
Candles, crucifix, the Catholic containment
of holy water that dams the tears
Kneeling around the bed
they said the Rosary
After VJ Day he came
to the house on the corner
of Commonwealth Ave.
She knew he was coming
but she could not be ready today
nor next week—or ever...
“Lill! Will ya come to the door?
She’ll be ready in a minute.
Hey Lill! Hurry up, will ya!
They’re waitin’ fer us!”
Upstairs in the dark hallway
her door clicks shut....
"Hey Kid" Part II
The clock at Joe Rianni’s read 20 minutes to 12...
Crowd from the Phillip’s Theater—gone
though laughter lingers
in a Friday mood
in high-backed booths
where only an hour ago swinging free
were high-heeled shoes
legs crossed at knees....
Now on tables abandoned
deserted fields of French
fries lie cold in salt flurries
Only female straws wear lipstick
as do Luckys bent in ashtrays
Males, uniformly flattened
as powder burned, as mortar might
shells, casings—the evidence of war
Among explosions of tickled giggles
one was taken broadside...
listing toward stars
...The clock read 20 minutes to 12
when she walked in--
And Rhea stopped swabbing black mica counters
long enough to absorb late-customer hate
and envy that such beauty can arouse
In voice hoarse and weighted like a trucker’s
“Whadaya have, Lill?”
The small answer settled at the soda fountain
and slowly struck a match...
She was falling from the slant
of her black felt hat
dripping off the point of pheasant feather
Gray gabardine suit
tailored from angle of shoulder
to dart diagonally
toward such a waist!
Turned to skirt hips
that arched and dove toward slit—
then seams that run the round of calf
that seem to flow
to ankles of naught—
...and all that seems
Black high-heeled above it
Coffee— cold, stale
Gray glassed-in stare
searches air and random walls
of coat hooks, menus, mirrors...
while lips ****** exiled words— replies
Dragging a demon from her Camel
she exhaled a burly arm of smoke
that rose and laid its hand
against the ceiled atmosphere of embossed tin
Then leaning over her shoulder
in roiling emission of shrugs and sneers—
“Lill—There’s no way outa here!”
“Hey Kid!” Part III
After kneeling backwards on their chairs
after nuns, catechism recited
Five of them scuffed through leaves and litter
along the curbing
spotting cars that counted—
Bugs, beach wagons, flying bathtubs
A slower way home of hunting
shiny chestnuts and muddy finds
rare match book covers
and bottle caps that win ya things!
One breaks from bunch
and trials off to where
dimes turn to candies!
...at a dingy luncheonette...Joe Rianni’s
Here—behind smeary wall of glass
pleasure leers while holding back
those grimy fingers, lips that long
for jelly fish, gum drops, lollies
holding back the company
of Baby Ruth, and Mary Jane
O Henry or Bazooka Joe!
For less money but the same salivation
there were colored dots to chew and ****
from strips of paper that last forever!
For a little more, plus the sweet struggle
of desire denied
a kid could be proud owner
of a pea shooter or trading cards!
While in the mouth
were golden imaginings—
the chocolate foil of coins
and the candied pretense of cigarette adulthood
Rhea didn’t see her in the line...
Only grownups with wallets and purses
Only grownups get waited on...
...because Rhea was a Gypsy!
Kids could tell!
by her big red lips and hair to match
by the nasty way she chased them out—
Only grownups get waited on....
And the clock read 20 minutes to 12
While a child waits—
time stirs in a ceiling fan
There’s a drift in attention
along deepening endless walls
toward a line of sleepy booths
“I was here—in such and such a year”
Her aunt—at the last stool—like always
Their names too close
Confused too often
A little girl wonders
about the sight behind the sightless stare
loafers, ankle socks, the ‘40s hair
the gathered skirt that gathers ashes
as they fall from cigarette
held in yellowed fingertips
Tremors crimp the smoke that climbs—
...a strobing pillar
“Whataya want, girly?”
...the only movement
“Hey! What’s it gonna be!”
...in a shot—
There are photos that go with this. I'll try to post them together on Facebook.