Little Park on Summer Street


I: 1991 at age 8:

Climbing over the chain-link rope, there you were
Hidden by the green.
We’d walk to you from Nonna’s house, bearing gifts of play.
Nicky and I called you the Little Park.
Your secret was safe with us. We’d protect you.
Your rusty see-saw mattered so much.
No, it wasn’t a plaything left to rot
Through years of changing seasons.
All we balanced in life
Depended so much upon it.

We’d plop our bodies on the bench
Shiny and wooden– no splinters there.
We’d watch the sun do the thing it always does,
Until Nonna would call at us for macaroni and cartoons.

II: 1995 at age 12:

Climbing over the chain-link rope, there you were
Hidden by the green.
You were our Little Park as we remembered
Now with a merry-go-round and a tire swing.
Nonna said the police might take them away.
Andrew from upstairs tried to choke his sister with the rope
After his Roger Rabbit balloon took to the skies.
But your secret was still safe with us.

The see-saw weighed every bit of truth now.
Who was fatter? Finally, it was Nicky.
We didn’t much care for the monkey bars,
I could just about touch them from the ground now.

We’d never get too big or too cool for you, Little Park.
Until we bought our first pair of rollerblades.

III: 2012 at age 28:

Walking in between two large stones, there you were
Hidden by the green.
Still a little park, but not ours.
Your old bench greets me
Dry, alone, with faded blue Sidewalk Chalk stripes.

The see-saw is no longer.
In its place another shiny, wooden bench.
I lock eyes with a pitbull, tied to its metal post
Replacing the missing balance
Protecting the new family bearing the gift of play.
A young mother asks a little boy with red pants,
“Wanna go on the horsey?” The new tire swing.

I want to climb the jungle gym
Slide down into the wood chip pool
Retrace my footprints to the see saw.
I go no farther than the old bench.

Published in: on December 10, 2012 at 1:54 am  Leave a Comment  

Sidewalks and Cracked Hands


We called my grandfather Sandy,

Sand collected in his denim Dickies’ cuffs,

Sand from the cement he mixed.


He did the hardest work with his hands

Sweating under a sun unforgiving, 

Laying each piece of flagstone slab 

To rest on a bed of cement. Hands

Crusted over– cut up from the stone edges,

Creating a mason’s handmade marvel,

On which the world could walk. 


He did the hardest work with his hands

Turning grapes from Lodi vines

Into his own velvet wine.

Staining his hands purple from juice released,

Tinting fingertips for all of harvest season,

All to bottle and keep

In the family’s name.


Dare to dream, he did,

And never, ever complained

Because he loved it. Breathed it.

Passed it to his sons. 


Then, at five, I asked my father,

“Why are your hands broken?”

“I got a boo-boo at work,” he said.

“Can me and Nicky work with you

When we grow up?”

“No, both you kids

Are going to college.”


I want to run down my own dream.

Like a single flagstone slab

Giving way to a dream sidewalk 

Built by Sandy and my father,

I’ll start one word at a time.

Published in: on December 10, 2012 at 1:52 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,