Stevieslaw: New York City, 1968

My poem, NYC-1968 just appeared in issue 23 of Misfit Magazine.  Here is the poem:

New York City, 1968

When last we met
we sat on a stone bench
in Central Park.
Frost had put paid to summer
and the big trees shivered
in the tepid sun.
We fed a squirrel
the remains of your lunch.
You said the draftees
had left
from Grand Central Station
that morning–
your fallen face
the color of the gunmetal sky.
That winter the water main
broke on the avenue
that ran along the park.
For months, we had to take
the long way home.

When last we met
we were in an apartment
in the East Village–
above the shop
that advertised “Fresh Produce.”
You said the Weathermen
had blown out all the windows.
We sat on the floor
in the hellish heat
and the stench of overripe melon.
A cloud of fruit flies
thickened the air.
You said you no longer cared
to brush them away–
your face
the color of ripe honeydew
your lips and eyes
covered in black dots
like a painting by Seurat.

When last we met
we sat in a coffee shop
on 96th street by the Y.
It was an hour past curfew
and we wondered how we would find
a way home through the mobs
and the frightened children
posing as soldiers.
Harlem was burning.
You said your family
had a dry-cleaning store there
and that hopelessness
was ingrained in the air and water.
Your dad kept a German Shepherd
as insurance on your livelihood,
but someone had poisoned it
with mock kindness and raw hamburger.
As we left,
they were pulling the iron grating
over the windows.
You went uptown
I went down.

When last we met
we stood in a sodden graveyard
perched on a rise in Queens,
that overlooked the skyline of the city.
The newly turned soil
screamed everlasting life.
You said your brother
would have been twenty-two tomorrow
were it not for the sniper’s bullet
that hollowed his left eye
and blew away the back of his head.
I recited a meaningless prayer
in a language I had never bothered to learn.
We shared a cab back to town.
I got out on Sixth street,
on the seedy side of The Village.
The steady drizzle
left room for only a meager sunset.

When last me met
we stood at the bar
in Sonny’s Place on Jay Street,
half hidden in the shadow
of the Myrtle Avenue El.
Sawdust coated the old oak floor,
the air heavy with smoke and sweat.
Sirhan Sirhan had just shot
Bobby Kennedy, his bloodied body
shown again and again
on the muted screen,
as if in one last replay
he might stand, shake his head, and smile.
Our beer staled in a silence
that might have gone on forever
had you not turned and left,
the door slamming shut behind you.

And, here is the link to the issue. Issue No. 23, Spring 2018

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8 Responses to Stevieslaw: New York City, 1968

  1. A stunning poem, Steve!


  2. stevieslaw says:

    that you Sarah. A personal favorite.


  3. Reblogged this on Sarah Russell Poetry and commented:
    My friend Steve Deutsch’s tour de force “NYC, 1968” has just been published by Misfit Magazine. I’m linking to Steve’s blog, but be sure to visit Misfit’s current issue too — more great poems there!


  4. ksbeth says:

    wonderful and such a sad poem. lots of what if’s and loss and a strong sense of longing within. congrats –


  5. stevieslaw says:

    Thank you. I value your comments.


  6. Ryan Stone says:

    I really enjoyed this one, Steve. Congrats on Misfit, too.


  7. stevieslaw says:

    Thanks Ryan. I really loved your poem on Poetrynook last week.


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