Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Simpler Time

The four of us lived in a two-room flat,
for fifteen dollars a month,
where the floors sagged from the weight of a wine
press and barrels that were once stored there.

A stream of water rushed diagonally
and dammed up against the room’s west wall when
my mother scrubbed the linoleum floor. Not even Lysol
could remove the perfume of fermented grapes.

After work each day, my father went to a bath house
on Grand Avenue, while we bathed
in a twenty-five gallon tub filled with pots
of cold water heated on the oil stove.

We kept our food in a fruit crate from A & P
hammered and braced outside the window,
just out of reach of alley cats and sewer rats.
We lived on Race Street for fourteen months

where I slept in a crib opposite a glass-dividing door,
and where just beyond another family lived a life
in silhouettes with clear voices. Sweetness
filled the rooms, and we were drunk with happiness.

“A Simpler Time” was originally published by Lake Shore Publishing, 1995.

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