Why I am not a vacuum cleaner salesman

Why I am not a vacuum cleaner salesmana

Some people sell vacuum cleaners, door to door.

I do not.  I was out late last night, celebrating

my 15th birthday with Richard Levine1.  We

set all the garbage cans behind the apartments

on Hegemon2 Avenue on fire. Today,

I skipped school and wandered the odd streets

of Brooklyn, seeking mischief.  No luck. At noon,

I met Jacob G.3 and we had lunch up on the avenue

at Joe’s deli4.  I had a couple of franks with sauerkraut

and a potato knish. I told Jacob about Rachmaninoff5

playing in Irkutsk6 for Elizabeth Taylor7.  He looked at me

funny. Perhaps he hadn’t seen the movie8.

After lunch, I ran into Jackson P9 and agreed

to meet him at the Livonia Ave. train yard10 that night.

Jackson P. is painting IRT cars. I’m often his look-out and

assistant—I shake the cans of dayglow paint.  I met my

cousin Peter11 and we took the train uptown to see

the Yankees play.  We didn’t have the dough so watched

from the elevated station12.  Mickey Mantle13 hit one

home run right handed and one left handed.  I grabbed two

franks with mustard, at Nedicks14, before heading home

I stopped off at quickly at Pier 41 to see my Uncle

Frank15.  It was deserted down by the piers and the ship,

The USS O’Hara, did not look that shipworthy. Frank was

deported to Ireland16 today, although he is Rumanian17

I waved but no one appeared. I waved again anyway.

I made it home before the others.  My mom sells stuff

at Mays18 downtown, my dad pushes a cab around

Manhatta19.   My sister’s studying somewhere to cut hair. 

They trudged in tired and more tired.  My older brother20

came in after 8.  He was carrying his vacuum cleaner sample

—it is heavy by 8. He didn’t sell any at all today, or yesterday

for that matter. He didn’t have much to say. We settled

down to franks and beans for dinner and tried,

blind tired,  to find a warm spot to sleep in.


a See Frank O’Hara’s poem: Why I am not a painter.

1 Childhood friend (CF), Commissioner of Police, NYC, 1978-1982. 2A street in Brooklyn that the trolly cars ran on. 3 CF. kia, Vietnam, 1969. 4 Pretty ordinary NY deli. 5 Pianist and Composer. 6 City in Russia, territory in the game Risk. 7 American actress and great beauty. 8 Rhapsody (1954).9 African American graffiti artist, mia Vietnam. 10 Where the subway trains go to rest at night. 11 Forger and passer of bad checks, currently witness protection program. 12 Jerome Ave. stop of the old IRT. 13 Yankee great and Hall of Famer. 14 Famous for hot dogs and orange drinks. 15. Frank ran with Abe (kid twist) Reles and Murder Inc. 16 Country that is sometimes in Europe. 17 Country that may someday be in Europe. 18 Department store in downtown Brooklyn. 19 What Frank O’Hara called manhattan, after first blaming it on the Indians. 20Barry, one true thing, RIP 2009.

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