for my father

We wore fedora hats
and ate nickel sandwiches,
played johnny-on-the-pony
and pitched copper pennies.
We worked all day, dreamed
of marrying saints and after
hours ran straight up to Harlem.

It was a good time to be a man,
a good time t know your way
around the block and a dollar.
Once you knew who lived where
and why you had friends
for life and rules to live by.

Bright Eyes owned the bar on
President Street. He only let his
sister in after hours. Even with a mop
in her hands she smelled like chocolate
and flowers and made you dream
about her dress on a hanger.

The way was still a world away
and Brooklyn still a world of its own.
Friday nights we’d take the train to
Ebbets Field or maybe split a cab
to Coney Island. From the top of
the Steeple Chase you could fly across
Queens, or scratch your back on
the Empire State Building.

Only the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts
were rich. The rest of us shuffled
ends and means, drove our trucks,
stitched our seams and gave our ears
and our pay to Mr. Roosevelt’s plans.
“I like his voice,” Bright Eyes’ sister
said, wiping her hands on the back
of her jeans. Mot much for politics,
I stared anyway. The right girl could
change your mind about anything.

(first published in Mississippi Review)