Back in the Day

I believe in 1974,
when I was five years old,

reading the dictionary

in the room where reading got done,
and intent on unlocking
the mysteries of the pantry

where the light always seemed

a tristful tint of brown.

I believe in 1975,
when we moved to Morris Street
and I turned six
and Johnny DiNapoli, twice my age,
taught me the Our Father and the Hail Mary
on a small blackboard in the basement.

I believe in the smell of sauce
(which we called "gravy")
coming from triple-deckers
where Italian grandmothers
laboured over hot stoves
all day every Saturday.

these same grandmothers
could be spotted
sweeping dust and litter
from their sidewalks
on weekday mornings.

I believe in 45s
of old r-&-b music
that Dad got from his friends
who owned bars with jukeboxes.
When the songs weren't getting
played anymore,
I'd inherit the records:
"Everybody Plays the Fool";
"When Will I See You Again?";
"Rock the Boat";
"You Make Me Feel Brand New."

I believe in 1976,
with its Bicentennial Minutes
and my month-long case of pneumonia
and Jimmy Carter beating Gerald Ford
nineteen to one in Mrs Stuart's
second-grader mock election.
That quiet girl, Lisa,
who said three words all year
was the only one to vote against
the Georgia governor.

I believe in sandlot baseball
and 1977
though I was incompetent with the bat,
hapless at catching flies.
Even worse at football,
touch football, no tackling
for eight-year-olders
(though Coach George Smith
did plenty of hollering,
high-strung Vince Lombardi wannabe).

I believe in 1978
with its outlandish heaps of snow
in January and February
and the heartbreaking Red Sox'
loss to the Yankees in October
in the one-game playoff
where Bucky Dent
homered off Mike Torrez.

It was farewell to the Manassah Bradley School
in 1979, and hello to the Joseph H. Barnes:
I'd heard rumours of tough kids
who'd beat up a "brainiac,"
but my trepidation was unwarranted.
No bruises, physical or mental:
but gentle mockery for wearing "high-waters,"
pants whose legs didn't go all the way down:
that was just about it.
The girls, I found, were merciless,
but I liked them anyway.

Poetry by Thomas DeFreitas The PoetBay support member heart!
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Written on 2018-05-20 at 11:55

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I like the vivid details in each stanza and the brutal honesty in the tone.