I'm a Certified Civil Trial Attorney in New Jersey, my day job. I grew up in Brooklyn and, sometimes, it feels like I never left, even though I've lived in New Jersey for almost 30 years. My parents always wondered what I'd do with a major in philosophy and a Master's in Creative Writing. The answer should have been obvious: law school. I also performed as a stand-up comic for two years in the mid-70s. I liked getting laughs but I needed a full-time job. I sold six jokes to Joan Rivers in theearly 90s. She had a PO Box for unsolicited material.
That Thanksgiving, my brothers and I got together
to discuss the possibility of half-brothers and sisters.
Our mother, we decided, never had time for an affair
unless, of course, she invited in some of the people
who came to the door while we were in school:
Murray The Eggman, Eddie the Mailman (who
carried par avion envelopes from Russia and
Israel); Murray the Seltzerman, another Murray,
with jars of Fox’s U-Bet and bottles of black
cherry syrup—did he carry my mother on one
shoulder the way he balanced his wooden crate
of Good Health Seltzer bottles on the other,
to make her squeal with Yiddish delight? Or maybe
it was the orthodox rebs, their hands always out
in search of donations for yeshivas and orphanages
in Jerusalem. My father, on the other hand, had
what we now call windows of opportunity.
Weekdays, he remained in Brooklyn while we left
the city for bungalow colonies in the summer,
in the early sixties. His overtime hours at the
post office brought him home at three and four
in the morning. The quiet guys are the ones
obsessed with sex, the addicts. We raised a toast
to our half-sisters and half-brothers everywhere:
have a good life and a very merry holiday
season. To you and yours, ours.
There were times
I’d go up to the roof
to check out the neighborhood’s,
native costumes, native breasts,
watch people exit the el
after a day of work,
goofing off, working hard,
Some had a spring to their step,
others, a little worse for wear.
The sun, my favorite H-bomb,
sat behind large purple clouds
like a soft-boiled egg.
It all hung together,
like fish caught in nets
on Portugal’s coast,
an early evening ballet,
the train’s rumble,
a car engine’s moan.
The bakery aroma curls up
through backyards and alleys
to the tarry outpost
where I jot down impressions
in the captain’s log:
behold, the less than evil urban empire,
the Kingdom of Brooklyn,
ten thousand pedal boats
in Prospect Park.
Barely tall enough for the pedals,
they stuck me with an older brother.
The good life carried a newspaper home
rolled up under its arm.
The tour guide says Spanish explorers
stole limestone from Mayan temples
for their churches, history built
on the backs of others.
Block by block, archaeologists
piece together their story,
push it up the pre-Colombian wall,
try to put Humpty Dumpty
back together again.
Couldn’t they build anything
other than ruins?
I’m an easier civilization to follow.
The recent past is strewn
across our kitchen table, car
maintenance bills, a furnace
monthly credit card statements.
The driveway is shot. The green
siding’s got to go. Front stair
bricks are chipped. Pay stubs
on the table tell what I’ve
done with my life.
©2014 Bob Rosenbloom