Burnside Avenue: 1970
Just 19, I found myself living on the second floor
of a ramshackle walk-up loft in the Bronx.
The first floor shared by a grim Kosher chicken
butcher who hangs his plucked birds like kielbasa
in rows by the window, and a zipper repair shop
whose owner was once a tailor in the old country,
before the brandings.
We are among the first freaks encroaching
into a nub still living the mother tongue. Fresh
boiled bagels fill the dawn with the scent
of yearning. Each bialy a blossoming
inner city honeysuckle. Rills of chocolate run
from hot marbled bobkas at the bakery down
the block among an exodus of apricot rugelach.
As if gathered from a confluence of exotic
caravans, appetizer shops brim with the taste
of a severed past. Under the elevated train
on Jerome Ave, an all night fruit peddler
mumbles to himself in mame loshn as he waits
beneath his marquee of painted pineapples
dancing with Chiquita bananas.
The brick pre-war apartments are bangled
with fire escapes. A milchik luncheonette, hidden
beneath the worn overcoats of its customers,
serves meatless blessings to those who still live
in a past defined by the numbers on their arms.
But all that seemed normal to us, benighted
and coming with bruises of our own.
Published in 2 Bridges Review