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Polka Dancing to Eddie Blazonczyk and his Versatones in Coaldale, Pennsylvania |
Living In The Candy Store | Letter From Bernard Malamud

Leonard Kress

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 

	         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."
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