Polka Dancing to Eddie Blazonczyk and his Versatones in Coaldale, Pennsylvania
for Brenda W.
Iād come, even if I wasnāt invited, to dance polkas, obereks, czardaszes with her. Iād ping beyond recovery my last-legs-Datsun, bucking it up into the mountains÷turnpike, tunnel, Minersville, Slabtown, the Ashland CoalBreaker, flexed like a great bullying arm to fling gravel into the doglegs of these patches. Wheregold church domes bubble up on the surface fromsizzling underground veins, and tropical blooms of unmowed Byzantine blue rash across towns abandoned. Her dad would already be downingpitchers of the liquefied amber his Baltic ancestorstraded, convinced that enough of it flushinghis system might purge the coal dust. Bythe time Iād arrive, heād be at the urinal, amongothers, groaning black piss. Andher mom, terrified that her son, back, fromthe city and the sex life there thatall here suspect but donāt mention, might drag someyoung guy from the line at Mack Truck intothe Chicken Dance or Fire, Fire. Suchunequivocal joy--a squeezbox resting ongut, fueled by sixpacks and old ladies shakingdevilsā fiddles, all so she can hop andtwirl, and thread through dancers thickening fromheat and age like roux. So she can sweat herselfslippery, too slick to hold on to, changing her outfit, her partner with each new set.
Living In The Candy Store
ćThus a distinguished German naturalist has asserted the weakest part of my theory is that I consider all organic beings imperfect.ä Darwin, Origin of the Species
The scent still rose from the cellarās cold marble slab, large enough to lay out, sponge down, and re-dress a dead family, years after the last butter cream cooled down on it. Strangers still knocked on the grated door even after we trashed the sign and displayed our own kids instead, in the huge plate glass window. Whereās old Elsie Ness, they said, that old German Lady, whose father played the thundering organ? We sold the pipes but it didnāt help÷others came. The man whose pee trickled in each day from the alley, the Belfaster who bartered guns for whiskey and passed out on our stoop, the lady who peeled off her shirt and revved to the swerving cranked car radios, her nipples like stogies. She came too, pressing them up against our window. All that sweetness, noxious as sewer gas, we wanted it all for ourselves÷the infrastructure of our longing. Out back, in the bricked-in walled-up garden, the barren nectarine tree went wild, overloaded and drooping, dark ooze scaffolding its branches, and bushels of flaming globules uncontained, supersweet, inedible.
Letter From Bernard Malamud
I lost it. I can remember only three things he said. First that he liked me or at least he liked the person who sent the letter, which I realize now might not have been me. After so many years, moves, housecleanings, only titles remain of the stories I sent. The Pretzel Vendor Named Carmen, The Footpath of the Daughters Of Lilith·I know he didnāt read them all, how could he, all those barefoot loosebreasted girls flicking their animal manes adorned by Vermont woods with burrs and thistles, waitng outside his office sitting in circles crosslegged, pantyless, wanting him as their father in ways they never wanted their father. The second thing he said is just too painful to repeat, even now, twenty-five years later, but itās not hard to guess÷it had to do with lightning and transformation and love. The Wailing Wall of Fishtown, The Burning Of Port Richmond·I barely recall what happened inside them, or who it happened to. And the third thing he wrote--"your story" (he must have pecked out in haste or desire) typo I hope for "these stories," "lacks the flowers of afterthought."