Renovating Levittown


Lined rows of Americana
molded into promises, shuttered windows
clipped to the sides like pigtails,
floors scuffed from dragged heels
kicked off after long days,
5 o’clock train,
6 o’clock whistle,
the call of meat and mashed potatoes.

Babies licked lead paint,
walked delayed steps, ran and squealed
spinning tantrums through legs
twirled from arms still gripped
in black band memory,
amber bottles numbed some into day,
some marched to cemeteries and churches
stabbing flags into the face of front porches,
into holes of questions.

Those draft dodging hippies,
those unshaven feminists,
those Civil Rights leaders,
challenging, marching, trying to rebuild with twigs and twine,
labeled Communists, excusing themselves
from the table, leaving their bowls of propaganda uneaten,
saccharine shaped Os bloating in milk,
wondering when it became anti-American
to question and challenge,
when questions gave us our nation,
when questioning authority could have saved
6 million Jews and countless others,
when questions aren’t asked, there are no answers
and construction is delayed, so hammer away.

Allow the nips and tucks,
trips to hardware stores, to pick and
polish the slacking skin,
staining and sanding the bones of yesteryears,
every decade a resurrection, a
defibrillation of heart, a clearing of saw dust lungs
to the fading tune of Morning Train, when wives
used to wait all day for their men, medicated off doubt,
filing nails down to the quick.

The remember when, when, when
he kneeled under chandelier,
when she stood in the kitchen cooking tears,
when in the hall he picked up words that
kept her there, spoken through the night
between plaster and wiring, echoing in the pipes,
plans and promises, reaffirmations and resuscitations.

Remember when, when, when
she stayed swallowed in home,
when he got bored and his hands got slippery,
when the country got amnesia and
nothing seemed to stick,
marching to the front of the bus
burning bras for better wage and day,
impatient for the hollow drip
to trickle down, pinging into tin
from those leaky roofs.

Homes shake their occupants,
their mirrors and memories,
returning years later, unable to recognize the
friend from grade school,
when at lunch she shared sugar and sweets,
a relief from a pantry of oats and wheat.

The taste lingers on your tongue
back to those times
when cars pulled in
when knees were skinned
when vows were broken and repaired,
laying in the brick and mortar of our
foundation, surviving the ball and chain
swing of our collective memory.


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