A chic Italian restaurant here on Rutherford’s
Park Avenue. On the corner across the street:
your home, sold to strangers. All those bright
flowers you & Flossie tended to in your backyard
gone. A piece of still-warm bread & a bottle of
Chianti I had to bring myself. It’s a dry town still,
where the mythy gods of wine stay suspect, Bill.
A blue flame gutters my lonely table. I ask
the waitress, first name Cora, who’s worked here
the past four years, if she’s ever heard of you.
A poet. You know, one of those. Spent his whole life
here in this godforsaken Jersey suburb long before
the stadium came to nest in the purple cattailed
meadows. Coaxed three thousand kids into this new
world naked, making endless calls on these same
ramshackle four-square rooms, leaving poems
at every railroad crossing, as he netted isolate flecks
of images from the sick, majestic river that runs
through town, heading for the black Atlantic
to be lost. “A poet, huh?” she says, in that
distinctive twang my poor mother had in life.
“Right here in this ol’ town. Well, I’ll be damned.”
As we all are, don’t you know, with our broken
cries and words. Again the dark descends
as she leaves me to myself. Except for the bells,
you were never one for Catholic rituals, old friend,
but let me ring one in tonight. A crust of bread
here in my left hand and a glass of dago red
in my right, which now I lift to you,
listening as you taught me with the one good ear
I’ve left for the river’s sad and distant music riffing
those jagged Jersey sounds you loved so well.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.