Our city had a thousand neighborhoods that flowed together
where bodegas met candy stores and bakeries, and little
restaurants with hot dogs grilling on a tiny Ferris wheel.
You could buy a bagel and a sour pickle or a slice of pizza
at the Den for fifteen cents. In the subway they sold Nedicks
drinks, orange or grape, and pretzels three for a quarter.
There were penny gum machines right on the platform –
Dentine and Juicy Fruit. We played softball on concrete
fields; if you slid, you tore your pants and your skin,
but you might be safe. There was always an argument,
and if it got late, you had to climb the chain link fence
to get out on the street. Sometimes there were fistfights,
but mostly we got along, the Irish and the Jews,
and the immigrant kids who spoke Hebrew or Spanish
at home, at least when we played Ringolevio or football
on the grass courtyards before the super chased us off
and we went to the high school to play stick ball, drawing
a strike zone on a brick or concrete wall. When it got dark,
you could see stars, even with the streetlights on,
and we would sit out on the stoops and talk, hoping
the girls would come over to smoke with us.
Sometimes we would just dream alone in silence feeling
our bodies change, growing more and more like strangers to ourselves.