The Last Time It Was Like It Was

The Last Time it Was Like it Was

for Jeff

Nan on the front porch
after fixing us breakfast, shouted her familiar
“You be careful, now” as we walked up the hill
to the trainyard,
a place I’d hung out as a kid throwing rocks
at boxcars, listening to the clunk
of train cars coupling, not doing much of anything
we shared a pack of Tastykakes
\and talked about a boy’s desire
to make noise and throw things
because they were there and the girls
we played with, too
because they were there.

I never went down to the tracks with the girls
because of the bums, we had the woods for that.
Hoboing was an almost lost art by then
but shabby guys from the tracks
   still sometimes came to the door.
Nan gave them sandwiches, but never money.
“They’ll spend it on booze” she’d say,
which she disapproved of, even beer,
convinced my dad was a bad influence
on Pop Pop because the old man drank more
when they were together.

We stopped
at Uncle Ben’s on the way back down the hill
for a couple of cheap drafts. The afternoon regulars
glanced toward the door when we came in.
Uncle Ben shuffled over and slapped down
two cardboard squares that said, “National Bohemian.”
Light filtered in through the glass brick window,
smoke rose slowly from half-burned cigarettes,
it all seemed unbelievably familiar and sad
which was only me getting a close look
at where I’d come from, what I wanted
to show you that day, Jeff.

I still have the photo
you took of me on the steps of P.S. 32
with my hands hanging loose, my arms resting
on my knees, relaxed and pensive
looking off to someplace else like someone
who knows where he’s been
and thinks he knows where he’s going.

Author: Charles Rossiter

Photo: Howie Wang on Unsplash

Previously published in the Paterson Literary Review

Post a Comment