identical to nothing
I Don't Think About You Anymore But I Don't Think About You Anyless
After my mother was diagnosed
with tuberculosis I lived
in one of the identical
brick houses on a long street
with my grandfather who worked
twelve-hour days six days a week
and my grandmother
who was too restless
to stay home for long
so that I was left on my own
at age four with plenty of time
to meet the neighbours
Mr Porti the building inspector
who died of a heart attack
behind the wheel of his Plymouth
and Mr Cleary the Con Ed linesman
with the Marine Corps tattoo
who chainsmoked Camels
and his beautiful daughter Nora
the nurse in her crisp uniform
who worked the night shift
and walked home from the bus stop
every morning at eight
and his son Neal Jr arrested
in Chinatown with a truckload
of stolen fireworks
and four doors down
Mrs Kornstein whose husband
was gassed at Auschwitz
where she received
a different sort of tattoo
the jagged numerals on her wrist
that she refused to remove
and two doors down from her
behind a wall of evergreens
Mr Boehringer the baker
a Bund member during the war
who spoke only German at home
and told anyone willing to listen
including his granddaughter
Heidi with her blonde pigtails
that Franklin Roosevelt was a Jew
in league with Stalin –
Heidi who ate uncooked
hot dogs without buns
they tasted like bologna she said
which was what the Lazzeri twins
Vincent and Little Steve
piled on Silvercup bread
with no mustard or mayo
their father Big Steve a mobster
who every Christmas
gave his wife a fur coat
and on their tenth anniversary
a two-tone Coupe de Ville
that he washed and waxed
on Sundays in their driveway
next door to Mr Porti’s family
struggling behind drawn drapes
his daughter Genevieve
in hand-me-down dresses
and scuffed shoes was my friend
her mother the widow
had suffered a nervous breakdown
so that Genevieve too
was being raised by her grandmother
herself a widow born in Sicily
who carried a cane to ward off dogs
and across the street from them
Mr Fallon the used-car salesman
who had no licence
and was driven to work
by his wife a secret drinker
that everyone knew about
both of them tormented
by their roughneck son
who one day put me
in a headlock until I turned blue
and I knocked his tooth out
and bloodied his nose
and his mother screamed that I was a savage
that we were all savages
though in fact I rarely got into trouble
and mostly kept to myself
while my father all that time
lived alone in the small apartment
that had been our home
before my mother was hospitalized
and held down two jobs
one to support us
the other to pay her medical bills
until finally she was released
from the hospital
and that first afternoon was resting
in my grandmother’s room
when I was brought in to her
I hadn’t seen her in a long time
she was pale and very thin
her hair was cut short
and I told her to get out
of my grandmother’s bed
out of her room
I didn’t know who she was anymore
maybe I never did or could —
not the girl who danced
until dawn on her wedding night
or the middle-aged woman
with ailments real and imaginary
who withered beneath
the weight of her fears —
for when she died many years later
having loved me (I know) as best she could
she was still a stranger

@темы: book worm