Friday, July 4, 2014

Poems of an Inner City

 1—Mpls, Minnesota, l982

Note:  The following 7-poems were originally published in the Minneapolis, Independent Newspaper “Insight” between, August 12, l982 and January l983; modified for 12/20/2005.


1- First Avenue [August 12, l982, Vol 9, No 22)

2- The Big Hennepin Avenue [[September 23, l982, Vol 9, No 25]

3-&-4 - Bus Stop No. 1 and The Telephone Hood [October 21, l982, vol. 9 & No. 28]

5- Elsie’s Christmas: back in ‘32 [December 16, l982]

6- About 10:00 PM [January 6.1983]

7-       Ritual --on First Avenue:  Mpls, MN  [January 20, l983]

These poems were written as the author hung around the corners of Hennepin Avenue in Mpls in the early 1980’s.  Most of the buildings have been replaced now, and the whole area has a new composure; and so these poems may provide a piece of posterity—if indeed that is what you are looking for, if not, they my simply for read for enjoyment.

1- First Avenue:

I saw a man die yesterday
--A man I never knew--
With all the dignity of a dog,
He died at twenty-two

He lay face down on a sidewalk
Two bullets in His flesh:
His black skin absorbing the sun
Observers, motionless.

O! I know it’s not uncommon
For such a happening
Within a crowed asphalt city
Where people are just things

But then it hard to submit
--even with our morels and mores
A life taken so simply;
When after—the unspoken door.

The paper read: “1 man dies…22
Shot and killed…First Ave…
From…Oklahoma…7 P.M…
Outside ‘a bar-called Gem…”

I heard the killers got away:
The motive--
It was hot that day…

Note:  I had stopped in the bar, call Gem that day; and was walking down the street when I heard someone running.  I turned around and heard a shot, one man ran up to Hennepin Avenue, the other down the opposite way.  The man dropped about 15-feet from me.  The ambulance came within 12-minutes.  I did a lot of drinking and bar hopping back then.  It was a very hot day.

2- The Big Hennepin Avenue [Mpls, MN ‘82; 7:15 PM]

On your street Mr. Henn…
  By 7th -- in an archway [hall]]
     Marked “Magazines…”
To a passer by -- a stranger calls:
     “A joint my friend;
Something else then.”

Between 4th and 8th -- Hookers
   Rest their feet --
     In your busy taverns;
While cops walk   their beat
   Looking in.

And outside a hamburger stop
   A cluster of provocative
     Use unlawful talk.

Then in a car-lot in back of
   An Inn -- six argue
     Over a fin.

Along 6th Avenue a block away
   A Wino picks up some butts
     While being accosted--
In the light of day.

A’d by a parking meter
   Not far away -- an old Vet
     Waits for prey.

Down on 1st -- walk two young studs
  --Checking out cars
     For a neighbor - run.

A’d on all the bus stops
   Within this square --
     Tax paying people--
Watch and stare.

At 9:15 --it’s clear to see--
   It repeats its - Self by three

Note:  as I had mentioned above, I would walk the streets back then, at night.   I was working, divorced, and into what was happening.  I lived in St. Paul, and played in Minneapolis.   I guess there is a time for everything. 

In this next poem, I can remember many times waiting by a bar, or inside a bar, or in a building in Minneapolis, for the telephone.  And it seemed every time I was on the phone, the person waiting would stand two feet from me listening; a way of saying let’s get going.   What provoked this poem was one day I was on the phone, a lady stood the two-foot distance I was mentioning from me.  I looked at her odd, as to say step back.  She would not.  So I told my friend I’d call later.  I got off the phone.  When the lady got on, I stood two feet away from her.  It really irritated her.  When she got off the phone, I asked how she liked it (?)  She simply gave me a discussing look, and got away from me.  Thinking maybe I was a crazy.  Then I went to the bar, sat down after that experience, and wrote the following poem, called: “The Telephone Hood”.  It should be noted, even though these poems were published in the newspaper, I never have given a commentary on them.  So you are the first to get a little back ground; although, they can be self-explaining.

3-The Telephone Hood

Something I’ve noticed
   And never understood
Is—a Telephone Hood.

You’ll be in a restaurant
   Tavern or shop--
S/he’ll be Five-feet away
   And feeling they should;

Staring, mocking--silently
   Thinking their Mr. Bell System
You see.

But then it’s their turn--
   And supposedly -- WELL

Their phone call is private,
   Personal--get away
Telephone Hood!

Dedicated to the: Telephone hoods in the downtown area of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

4-   Bus Stop No. 1 

His cheek-bone
   Contracted from swelling;
His neck, three shades of red;
His temple, an open wound--
    Blood oozing sown
          His head;

His clothes
   Textured with soot;
His eyes, pale with death;
   Stands--this young lad--
By bus stop number one,--
   The corner of sixth and
   He curses the by-standers
   For staring, not helping;
He laughs with gestures of pain;
   Carries on, and on, and on--
With vulgarities.
As I approach with empathy
   I take a helping stance--
I rush to a near-by tavern
   And call an ambulance.
   I return to the walk
I notice He’s walking away
[laughing, joking, kidding with
A police officer looks my way
   With five words to say:

“We’ve done our deed today.”
   Days pass
          He’s back again
The same corner
           With a bottle
Of Gin;
I think now--Should I, I
For He’s calling Wolf again:
This ugly looking human shock
--That happens quite a lot--
   Bus stop+ 1...

5- Elsie’s Christmas
        (Back in ‘32)

A note about the poem:  Elsie is my mother.  She loved Christmas Trees; decorating them.  She is today 81-years old.  She doesn’t decorate them anymore, but Christmas time, the buying of gifts, the
Cards and all seem always to be the best of the year for her; and of course Christ’s birth.  I wrote this poem in December, l982, and it was published on December 16, l982.  Now, almost 20-years later, I re-discover it, and share her memories with you.  I remember talking to her just prior to creating the poem.  I asked her what came to mind.  And when I gave it to her, she care for well, keeping a copy in her bedroom drawer.

Part I

It was back in ‘32
When a paper-doll would do--
Icicles, wooden shoes.

And just about Christmas
   Time--I remember--
I’d be huddled
With a brother, sister
On a street corner
Watching fire-engines,
Street--cars, --Racing
   Through town--
On cobblestone streets,
Where children sang songs.

And not far away
   Was an orphanage
--I recall--
St. Joseph’s (in St. Paul):
I spent some time there
   After Ma died;
But it never got me down--
Remembering how she loved
   Christmas year-round.

O! How I love Christmas time--
With all its beauty and rimes;

With the horse drawn sleighs
And old street lamps,
The Salvation Army
Ringing their chants.

And each Christmas
   I’d walk with dad
To the market place--
Hauling a Christmas tree
   Home that same day;
Dressing it with tinsel,
Bulbs of all kinds.
Listening to the radio,
   Playing Christmas chimes.

Part II     Elsie’s Christmas [1982]

It’s now ‘82
Times have changed;
More Santa’s
Are doing their thing.

Artificial Christmas trees
Year round Christmas socks;
More children on skies,
Snowmobiles in the parks;
More toys, TV’s--
   Parking lots;
Christmas cards that seem
   To talk.

Festivals of merriment,
Ice-fishing on lake
Ice Castles, Parades --
   Not quite the same,
Not --
  Quite like ‘32
   But it’ll do.

But the church bells
   Haven’t changed;
The white snow-flakes
   Still remain; and
The North Wind -- still howls
   With a whispering chant.

O! How I love Christmas time --
With all its beauty and rimes;
Like back in ‘32
When a paper-doll would do.

Part III

Some things will never change
Like back in ‘32 -- we all knew:

In a stall in Bethlehem,
In a land called Judea
   2000-years ago--
A baby child was born, called,
Jesus Christ our Savior.

Word count: # 989/re-edited 2001

Added new version:   Part IV

 Elsie’s Christmas--2001

O!  The fun has never stopped even at 81
   I watched her as she watched me
Open my gifts a few days ago,    as if
    She was but ten

Still the love for Christmas lays
   Deep within her heart
Like back in ‘32,
   When a paper doll would do.

And although she can’t reach or walk
   Like she use to way back then 
She still can wrap those gifts

And so this is my story to you,
A Christmas at 81, for my mother,
the whole
                 Year through…

6-About 10:00 P.M. /I met a Demon
   (San Francisco, l969)
Poem deleted for present

7- Ritual --          On First Avenue (Mpls MN)

How shall I write?
This poem with tears
Fears scholarly years
With love?

In a pub on first avenue
By fifth its 9:  15 p.m.
I’ sitting on a wobbly
Wooden stool
Sipping light cold beer
Thinking, thinking
This is where it’s at
The new now me
Generation crowd
Comes goes
     To support their
New now me atomic
Basic needs

The bar-tender says
The same sir “sure”
He smiles…no tip
He’ thinking now
I think he’s thinking
Next time buddy

Music diffuses throughout
   Bubbling complaints
All about
Politics religion girls
Sports   wrongs
A million sold I bet

I’m thinking of a poem
A poem, poem to write
Something peaceful

I say but who would
In this world of
Forced-fed complexity

No that wouldn’t   go
Be read

A picture on the wall
It’s staring at me
Crowded skies dense mist
Surrounding its terrain
Realism I say!

But that brings pain
Too hard to live with

Maybe a sonnet   haiku
Something with rhymes
Stress’ metaphors
Similes classical
Flowery psychological (?)

I now look sown at my
Light cold beer
I must have been sipping
Sipping   sipping
It’s nowhere

My ash-tray is filled
Butts   butts   butts
I believe there’re mine
Everyone’ busy
Pretending I bet

Body’ bottle’ and minds
I doubt they notice mine

I know!  A universal

Note: compiled 2001/modified 12/20/05