Thursday, October 1, 2009

Prose Poem: Puma Perl

Miss DiFalco

Miss DiFalco
(not yet thirty,
but spinsterish)
taught English to
seventh graders-
girls in black eye make-up
boys who wrote "fuck"
in their books…

Miss DiFalco,
principal’s daughter
a bear-like man
who scared everyone,
even the boys
drawing cocks
in library books,
even the girls
in ripped
black stockings...

Miss DiFalco,
light and flowery,
lavender, gardenia,
the girls smelled
of cigarettes,
tasted musky,
the boys greased
their hair

Miss DiFalco,
in her skirts too long,
her sensible shoes,
her crying eyes,
spoke clearly,
softly, in a refined
Brooklyn accent-
the students liked her
despite themselves.
they seemed to feel
the passionate woman
hiding behind her eyes.
on parent-teacher day,
six mothers wore pant suits,
three fathers squeezed
their bellies behind
student desk
the kids played
with their erasers,
tapped their feet-
everyone pretended
interest in verbs,
nouns, sentences.

after the lesson
Miss DiFalco
read a poem,
The Highwayman,
by Alfred Noyes
she had memorized it
"I'll come to thee by moonlight"
she recited, eyes burning
"look for me by moonlight"
she whispered, cheeks red
"Tlot-tlot in the frosty silence!
Tlot-tlot in the echoing night!"

she cried out!

the fathers leaned forward,
forgetting the desks
cutting into their guts,
the mothers narrowed their eyes,
the boys stared at her breasts,
the girls fixed their stockings-
finally, the highwayman
rode up to the old inn door;
whip in hand, he reached
for Bess, the landlord's daughter
the one with the long black hair-

Miss DiFalco
hissed those last lines,
closed her eyes,
clasped her hands,
willed her shaking body
to sit quietly again.
the class stood up
and applauded.
it was her finest moment.


A Ninth Grade Story

Monday morning:
Joey Carlucci turned Mr. Gatto's VW bug upside down.
His friend Butchie threw Mrs. Kimmelman’s desk out the window.
It landed on Mr. Camiel's 1962 two tone 4 door Dodge.
The cops found 82 unpaid parking tickets and red lace underwear under the seat.
Josephine Caruso passed a note to Richard Dorso.
It read in part, I love You. you can put it in Me today.
She signed my name with a lot of hearts and a postscript,
suggesting that he call me Huckleberry Pie.
Richard Dorso’s girlfriend Angela Palumbo came to my Spanish class.
Said she'd wait for me after school.
I told Joey Carlucci who liked me so he slapped her.
During lunch, he had a fight with Richard Dorso.
Angela and I smoked cigarettes and glared at each other,
twins in ripped black stockings and sneakers
She was 13, a year older than me cause I skipped 8th grade,
The cops arrived (again) before you could tell who won,
though Joey Carlucci was starting to look a little soft
around the eyes, like he was afraid of getting hurt.
Everyone who didn't run got JD cards and notes
asking their mothers to come up to school.
I rode the bus home alone except for Butchie,
who kept whispering "Huckleberry Pie" at me.
I knew I had to fight Josephine Caruso,
but all I wanted to do was to go home
Eat milk and cookies; the milk had turned sour
so I drank a cup of coffee and went back out,
looking for Josephine Caruso.


Naming the Wild Flowers
(original published in Journal of Heroin Love Songs, 6/08)

Ruth was long and blonde
She lived in the yellow house
up the road
She drove a pick-up
Painted houses, taught school
Baked pumpernickel
with secret ingredients
like mashed potatoes

She left the yellow house
to live with Allen on Bald Hill
His face was hidden
behind a bushy beard
Glasses and a hat
His head was usually down
He picked it up for Ruth
Turned out to be quite handsome

Wild flowers grew by the door
Ruth recited their names slowly,
like a child learning the alphabet
Fireweed Goldenrod
Spring Beauty
Jack in the Pulpit
In a little girl's voice
She called out each name

Years later they came downtown
It was winter, she wore a pair of pants
around her neck, she had no scarf
After an hour, it was Allen's turn
She buried her face
in a stained cabled sweater
Her skin was as yellow as
the house up the road,
She spoke in a rasp, broken
teeth, cracked eyes
Burnt matches fell
from her pockets

They left hand in hand
Nicotine fingers entwined
She looked back at me once
The wind whipped her hair
Into her eyes, covered her face
She used to smell like lemons
I remembered her
Sitting on a country step
Could still hear her
In a child's voice
Naming the wild flowers

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