Spring 2006

Volume 1, Issue 1



New Year's Tangerine


I peel off the tough resisting skin
of the dense globe
that weights the hollow of my hand
and spread it on the plate
like a mercator projection

and think of my father
when his small frame bent
over the dining room table
as he separated the wedges
of his own small fruit

into a careful flower
each crisp slice red orange
full and refreshing
like a wall of water bags
hung on a fence, the juice

spilling down his chin
while he noisily sucked up
the pulp, so innocent seeming
until it blocked his system
that first new night of the year

so long ago, knowing
he shouldn’t eat these
while he drained the delicious
flavor of one, then another,
then a third sliver, the sweet taste

urging him on toward the hospital
where we rushed him, the urgency
of his need for tangerine sugar
for once defeating the wild force
of his untamable caution.




For Milton Rogovin

There’s always one outside, against
a doorway or front stoop, everything
old, battered, paint flaking, wood
striated with cracks, concrete steps

chipped and stained, boarded-over windows
tattooed with simple art and boys’ tags
(Nelson, Star Boy, Jesse, George, Mike
of Hell), cracked bricks gaping mortarless,

the ground barren stamped dirt, the only
grass the tufts pushing up between
blocks of cracked and worn pavement,
and the subjects, singly or in pairs,

standing tall to arrange themselves
for this man behind the tripod
against the squalor of their streets,
the leggy weed of their door yards,

gazing into their futures with
silent hopes, the men and boys all
staring, gap-toothed, shirtless, dark skin inked,
or in uniforms of the factory,

job, street, bar, gazes goofy
but mostly proud, the women graver,
knowing each decade’s frame will fill
with children as their bodies plump,

first one, then three, faces tiny
take-offs of their parents’ looks
like a rolling wave pushing toward
some shore never reached, impossible

to resist, until later,
in photograph three or four,
the frames fill, the faces aged,
hair gray or gone, kids grown and looming

above their shrunken parents in
neat but tiny rooms, on sofas
in front of rented curtains, or else
the populations shrink to two

and sometimes one, standing alone
or sitting, bereft of all those
they loved, faces heavy with grief
in the steadfast flash of their moments.




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© 2006 Americana: The Institute for the Study of American Popular Culture