Sunday, March 28, 2010

kiddie rides

I sat in the microforms reading room in the Genealology Division of the New York Public Library. My obsession was old Brooklyn telephone directories. I surrounded myself with hordes of microfilm and I was determined to put myself in touch with the past. The year under my analysis was 1952. I noted with childish glee that Barbra Streisand had indeed lived on Newkirk Avenue. I moved on to discover the exact location of the old Garfield Cafeteria, and then I verified the addresses of my deceased grandparents.
The woman sitting next to me did not hesitate to reveal that she was adopted as a child and she was looking through material that might help identify her birth mother. Another lady searched through a roll of film that contained a list of the surviving soldiers of the Civil War. She was tracing history in order to compile a family tree. A man, who looked like Fyvush Finkel, was somberly looking through the Census records of 1920. All the visitors to the library were turning the wheels of the microfilm machines in complete unison! Oh, the fellowship of spirit! I felt we should all stand, hold hands, and sing a song!
Memories of summers filled with kiddie rides came flooding back to me. I remembered the miniature boat rides, the little car rides, and the small pony rides near the boardwalk. When I left the library, I longed with desperation to return to Brooklyn.
I wanted to walk down Flatbush Avenue in 1948, to go to old Steeplechase, to have lunch at the Famous on 86th Street... and most of all I wished I could visit my long deceased grandparents. But instead, I exited the library and found myself drenched in bright hot sunlight and walking down a long staircase covered in pigeon droppings. I limped down Fifth Avenue because my heel spur was killing me and all the way home I disgustedly dodged the rushed Manhattan congestion.
I entered my apartment and immediately took a short nap. When I awakened, I did not know if it was evening or morning. It was still light at dusk, and I got into my car. I drove south on the West Side Highway and the pink sun soon sizzled and set to my right over the Hudson River. I was numb, and I headed for Coney Island. By 9:00 PM, I realized that the cure for my nostalgia will always be the smell of sea air, the sight of the Parachute Jump in the distance, and... Nathan's.


I awakened and longed with desperation
To return to Brooklyn.
I wanted to ride until dawn on a creaky
Ferris wheel left behind by a carnival and
To visit the still standing luminous
Chartreuse home of my grandmother.
Memories behind stained glass windows
Beckoned like some naked amnesiac
Who struggles to reach home.

In the air, I could still smell the fullbodied scent
Of burnt potato pancakes that wafted through that
House and I often glimpsed the ghosts of ancestors
Lurking and sucking juice from the backyard peach tree.
I longed with desperation to return to old Brooklyn.

At 6 P.M. I slipped into my car
And drove south through Manhattan streets.
Streets at night eternally bathed
In disconsolate orange moonlight...
Trapped in an endless maze of mirrors.
The pink sun soon sizzled on the Hudson River
And set, to my right, in bright blazing Technicolor.
In the distance, one kittiwake
Seemed to have found the way.

I headed for the elixir of the spinning
Teacups: the kiddie rides at intoxicating
Coney, the most haunted and
Haunting of places: Brooklyn.

© 2004 Marjorie Levine, in "Naked Amnesiac"

Saturday, March 27, 2010

"What Way To Go Today"

This poem won the Beat Poetry Contest on December 3, 2009.


Almost dusk:
Last summer on one Wednesday, in July,
I sat on a bench, a grey wooden tired
Bench on a boardwalk out at old Long Beach.
In the sky a lonely and lost grey kittiwake tipped
As the hot pink sun set in blazing technicolor over
Hot pinkish sand and the fading blue ocean water.

That morning:
I had thought about seeing great art...
Vermeer, or Courbet, or maybe Monet.
But, I drove to the beach instead to think
To think about everything creative that had been
Created before I got here, and when I was here,
And what will be created when I leave this place.
When one day I leave my place and all places in my
Consciousness that is now in this time and was
At a past time and will be in some next time;
Maybe all time exists at the same time.
The great minds of theoretical physicists search
For the "Theory of Everything" as they sit
In their cluttered rooms, their great thinking rooms.
In universities, they ponder the mathematical equations
And Schrodinger's cat and all those mysteries.

In the evening:
It is during the quiet and still and sad night when
I miss most the people I never met:
Edie Beale, and the Rat Pack, and even Rod Serling
Who made me want to time travel: to go back to simpler places
Like Nedick's, or the Belmore, or Bickford's, and Willoughby.
Then the longing, a longing when distant sounds and faraway
Foghorns drive thoughts to reflect on a life visible through some
Smoky cracked mirror, a haunted and haunting steamy mirror.
As I am sort of old now and getting older
There is a vague and odd feeling that I,
Like the kittiwake, somehow must have lost the way.

© 2009 Marjorie J. Levine

Sunday, March 21, 2010

sweating madness

Speak to me in hushed tones
And tell me who stole the peaches
From the old backyard tree
The night I danced the fandango
In front of a closed automat.
As the humidity of that evening
Turned my hair a burnt sienna
An elastic lady teased, “Tsk tsk,”
Because the chartreuse slippers I wore
Were not even my own.

Siamese twins took turns
Stroking the belly of an insect
That rested on the sterling silver tray
I held in my outstretched left hand.
A fading fragrant French cologne-
Earlier a sweet elixir-
Melted under the neon lights
At the very moment
The tattooed film director
Held a lit match to her cigarette
And started a small fire.

And the charlatan I once loved
Did a few fancy smart steps and knew,
As usual, I would forget.

© 2004 Marjorie Levine, in "Naked Amnesiac"

spinsters and ghosts

It is murky and dim down the street
Where an unforgiving lonely spinster
Lives almost protected under blankets
Of carefully crocheted elixirs.

Here- where the ghosts of ancestors,
Sitting on the moss of invisible oaks,
Offer kind words of encouragement
Adding seconds to midnight
When dreams turn to film noir.

There- where starry-eyed children
With handsome fathers
Would spin until dusk... or dawn
On a forgotten Ferris wheel
Left behind by the carnival
After roadsters skidded home along
Slippery highways.

Now- up on a vacant fifth floor
The weariest is carefully coifed and rouged,
Sitting on the other side of gold brocade.
Bloodless thighs wrapped in an opaque afghan,
She is clinging to a teacup of cold chamomile.

Later, she shares ambrosia with gods.
Then in a final gesture,
She scrapes and scrapes the bottom of her dish
Searching for one last drop.

© 2004 Marjorie Levine, in "Naked Amnesiac"