Monday, September 29, 2008

conquering a fear, first try

In the early part of May 1949, I was able to climb the long staircase to the top of the slide, but when I reached the top I was afraid to slide down. I contemplated my options... and I did an "about face" and walked backwards back down. I did not succeed and fear ruled.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

conquering a fear, next try

In late May 1949, we went back to the park and this time I was determined to slide down. I climbed the long staircase and sat down. I thought about my options. I looked down the steep slide. I decided to be brave. And I flew down flat on my back. The event was documented in perfect stages by my father. This incident was perhaps a foreshadowing of my issues with playground slides.

Friday, September 26, 2008

a house on 82nd street

This photo was taken in 1941. It is of my cousin, Eileen, and she is standing in front of my grandmother's house. As I grew up, we often visited my grandmother who lived in that house until her death. It's still there and and for many years after the house was sold I would drive to Brooklyn and see the family who bought the house. They would graciously allow me in, and as I walked through the house I was always filled with memories that came flooding back.

Long ago...
A child rested on a maroon sofa
In the still musty living room
Of her grandmother’s house.
The house was decorated with gold tassels
And white lace and starched doilies...
And it trapped a scent of burnt potato pancakes.
At night, the ghosts of ancestors sucked the juice
From the peaches of a backyard tree.

A fake fireplace electrically glowed
Orange-yellowish and whispered in
All seasons the child was home.
On a maroon table, sat an
Incandescent pink seashell...
“Hold it to your ear and you can hear
The sounds of the ocean,” ventriloquists urged.

The steady whir and flutter of the slats
Of off-white Venetian blinds lulled her
As chill winds passed through Brooklyn.

At dusk, the front door opened and
A man, wearing gray and gray,
Silently traipsed through the house
To “his room” and he closed “his door.”
He was home, too.

The grandmother called the man
Just “the boarder.”
The child only glanced up as he passed and
He never spoke to her... nor she to him.

On the clearest of days she cannot even recall
His face... yet she stares at him whenever chill
Winds pass through Manhattan.

charlie was here

... and in his day, he was the best ballroom dancer at Roseland.

the mystery of robert's death

Robert was my mother's brother. He died in 1929, at the age of 16. According to police, he died after accidentally drinking a chemical with which he had been experimenting in the basement of his building. He was experimenting with a glass of water and another glass contained a chemical, and upon conclusion of the experiment, he drank the chemical mistaking it for water.
I think about Robert from time to time. He was my uncle, and he tragically died about 20 years before I was born. The house in which this happened still stands on a Brooklyn street, and memories of childhood visits there appear in my poems and other works.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

the "shore parkway" years (1947-1949)

This is where I first remember eating shav and honeydew. On rainy days, I can still smell that overripe honeydew. And on cold days, my father banged on the ceiling with a broom to demand more heat.

the "independence avenue" years (1949-1952)

It was here that I attended PS 229, and I have vague memories of my first grade teacher, Miss McGlynn. I would play "count the blue cars, count the black cars" with my grandmother when we sat at the living room window (seen in the picture here) while waiting for my parents to come home from a day out. And at night I would listen to the sound of the whooshing cars and watch their dancing shadows on my wall as they traveled down Bay 8th Street.

the ultimate accessory: the tube

a chic accessory: the beret

buried in sand

Monday, September 1, 2008

an ode to ocd

I catch a subtle whiff of dried lavender
As our director, a wiry-haired widow,
Lights a cigarette and with a simple single
Gesture flicks the ashes into the palm of her
Fashionably tattooed and manicured left hand.
"There is no need to state your full name;
Just speak of the fear, the constant fear," she coaches.

Behind us, the steady swing and flutter of
Gold diaphanous curtains as a clammy, familiar breeze
Passes through the old chartreuse theater.
We describe strange, tormenting, ritualistic behavior:
Washing, checking, hoarding... mental anguish so
Exquisite the weariest sheds mellifluous tears:
"I've shared ambrosia with gods;
At midnight, demons turn my terror to film noir."

That evening, I dream of solitude
And the transmigration of souls...
One lonely soul wishing to return
Washed in amnesia, hypnotized and untainted.
When I awaken, it is still dark-
Down below, the street is eternally bathed
In disconsolate orange moonlight...
Trapped in an endless maze of mirrors. ©

© 2004 Marjorie Levine, in "Naked Amnesiac"