Fragments of my youth in East Boston

in the late 1970s.

Back in the Day

I was five years old,
reading the dictionary in the bathroom

of 65 Saratoga Street;

avid, I was, for cumbrous words

like quattuordecillion.


Whenever I visited Nana's house

in nearby Somerville,

I was intent on solving

the mysteries of the pantry

where sunlight scowled

in shades of brown

like ancient photographs.

We moved to Morris Street,
and I turned six,
and Jimmy Napoli, all grown up

at age twelve,

taught me the Our Father and the Hail Mary
on a small blackboard in the basement.

Always there was the smell of sauce
coming from triple-deckers
where Italian grandmothers
labored over hot stoves
all day every Saturday.
Unfailingly, these same old ladies
could be spotted
sweeping dust and litter
from their sidewalks
on weekday mornings.

I collected 45s
of r-&-b music
that Dad got from his friends
who owned bars with jukeboxes.
When the songs weren't getting
played anymore,
I'd inherit the records:
"Everybody Plays the Fool";
"When Will I See You Again?";
"Rock the Boat";
"You Make Me Feel Brand New."

Then came Bicentennial Minutes
and my month-long case of pneumonia
and Jimmy Carter beating Gerald Ford
19 to 1 in Mrs Stuart's
second-grade mock election.
That dark-haired girl, Lisa,
who said three words all year
was the only one to vote against
the Georgia governor.

I tried sandlot baseball

though I was incompetent with the bat,
hapless at catching flies.
Even worse at football:
touch football, no tackling
for eight-year-olders
(Coach George Smith
did plenty of hollering,
high-strung Vince Lombardi wannabe).

January and February of '78

brought outlandish heaps of snow.
October gave us

the heartbreaking Red Sox'
loss to the Yankees
in the one-game playoff
where Bucky Dent

of the hated pinstripes
homered off the hapless Mike Torrez.

Soon, it was farewell to the Bradley School
and hello to the Joseph H. Barnes:
I had heard rumors of tough kids
who would beat up a "brainiac,"
but my trepidation was unwarranted.
No bruises, physical or mental:
but mockery for wearing "high-waters,"
pants whose legs didn't go all the way down:
that was just about it.

The girls, I found, were merciless,
but I liked them anyway.

Poetry by Uncle Meridian The PoetBay support member heart!
Read 238 times
star mini Editors' choice
Written on 2021-11-05 at 08:59

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Editorial Team The PoetBay support member heart!
Congratulations! Your poem has been chosen to be featured on our home page by a fellow member of PoetBay. Thank you for posting on our poetry website!

Griffonner The PoetBay support member heart!
It seems that your poem has struck a chord with many of us (I suspect 'more mature' members of your audience.) I enjoyed it very much - not that I knew the environs in which you moved - but for the underlying wistfulness which vibrates well with me at this time. Bravo. Deserves accolade.

Alan J Ripley The PoetBay support member heart!
Thoroughly enjoyed this.
There weren't many happy memories
In my child hood still looking for the
Great escape song though.
Pickle I have a pickle, but it's a dollar
To a nickel, that when I'm kissing,
Go on I'm kissing.
She is the one girl for me.

MetaPoetics The PoetBay support member heart!
Such beautiful and memorable fragments from your youth. It made me remind me of my own childhood, back in the day when everything and everyone seemed carefree and picture-perfect. A delight to read, your poem; thanks for posting!

jim The PoetBay support member heart!
This reminds me of Charles Reznifkoff's "Testimony," though as its antithesis. Reznikoff's prose-poetry makes you want to weep or beat your head against a wall to stop the pain. Yours is pure delight, couldn't get enough.

It also reminds me of Ray Bradbury's "Dandelion Wine," which I read hopefully, hoping for something like your poem, but was disappointed by its other-worldliness. I was looking for this world.

Point being, I thoroughly enjoyed the looking back.