In 1964, my father and uncle
loaded the U HAUL and we left
Bed Stuy with all the other white
people and moved to Long Island.
I was 8, ashamed to admit
I cried the last day of school.
We lived on the top floor
of a six story walk up. Mom
wrapped dimes in napkins, dropped
parachutes out the window
whenever The Good Humor Man
rang down our block. Joe Poggi,
the older kid on the fifth floor,
kicked the shit out of anyone
who teased me the year I needed
crutches to walk. August, we opened
Johnny pumps, played kick the can
and dragged mattresses up the stairs
to sleep on the roof. Two flights down,
I crouched on the fire escape, saw
my first real live, half naked girl,
Denise Acquilante, sitting in front
of a brightly lit mirror, brushing
her sixteen year old nipples,
turning this way and that way.
Five years later, when construction
shut down a section of the BQE,
Dad took side streets and drove us
home through our old neighborhood.
The sun and radio filtered through
the elevated tracks as we followed
Myrtle Avenue, turned left toward
Stockholm Street. My father slowed
down, clicked the radio off and told us
to shut the windows, make sure
the doors were all locked as we rode
past the boarded up barber shop.
The luncheonette and Gino's Pizzeria
were gutted shells. Our building,
79 Stockholm Street, was a lot
covered with rusted metal, piles
of tires and powdered rubble.
My father eased the car
to the curb, "I told you Mary,
we got out just in time.
God damn animals." I pressed
my face to the window.
On one corner, a bent,
netless rim was nailed
to a telephone pole, and one
black boy about my age
bounced a basketball.
He stopped, cradled the ball
on his hip, looked at our car
for a few seconds, cocked
his head, then started dribbling
again. He backed in closer
to the basket like Earl
The Pearl, peeking over
his left shoulder, twirling
in slow motion and taking
that soft, beautiful fade away.
First published in One Trick Pony