Second Poem—Urban Legend

Here is the second poem published yesterday by Anti-heroin Chic.

Urban Legend

Eddie told everyone
Benny lived in a fourth-floor walk up
on Watkins Avenue,
in one of those crummy tenements
that only had heat in the summer—
but he later admitted
he’d never been there.

Jenny said
her cousin Ray told her
Benny lived with his mom and dad
and that the mom
was old country,
spoke only Yiddish,
and took in sewing
to pay for luxuries—like rent.
“Desperately poor,”
She said
Ray said.

But, we all knew Ray
made up stories
and, when pressed,
he’d only say, “How would I know?”

Marty was sure that Benny’s dad
led a horse-drawn cart
around the cobbled streets
of Brownsville.
selling rags and tin pots
and sharpening knives—
“for future suicides,”
we’d joke,
and then remember Anna,
who had.

Looks just like him,
Marty insisted,
but the guy
was named Jesus
and came from San Juan,
and Benny was
as Jewish as Solomon.

Benny would come by midweek
dressed in what must have been
his dad’s cast-offs
and black high-top sneakers
that might have been new
twenty years ago.

He’d join us for basketball—
taking the court
with a winning smile,
though he dribbled
like he thought the ball
was radioactive
and he might—god forbid—
have to pick it up.

Other days,
Ricky assured us with great authority,
Benny ran a floating craps game
in a school yard
somewhere
in East New York.

But Ricky had no idea
why someone needed
to run a craps game.
And what did “floating”
mean anyway—
Hucklebenny on a raft
on the East River?

Benny could talk
you inside out
and seemed to know
all there was to know
about everything.
It was a bit of a challenge—
even for those of us
who went to class
hoping to learn what Thomas Jefferson
High School had to teach,
and Davy might say,
“Let’s see what he knows
about the Spanish Civil War,”
and just like that Benny
would take you to Barcelona
to the aroma of saffron and garlic
and the sound of the ocean
breaking the news
of the death of the Republic.

But what Benny knew best
was baseball.
ERAs and Batting Averages
and who would play who
two weeks from Wednesday—
and yes, he made a little book,
and yes, he made a little money—
but no one begrudged him that.

I pictured him
the next Mel Allen
but they drafted him
and sent him to Nam
with the rest of the kids
from Watkins and Thatford,
Chester and Bristol.
And some came back—
older and odder,
and as doomed as that Spanish Republic,
but Benny never did.

This entry was posted in gang gang dance, poetry and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Second Poem—Urban Legend

  1. One of your very best, Steve!

    Like

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