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WCW: Rutherford, N.J.

Silvia Falsaperla

I

OH DOC!

you would turn in your grave—if

you saw the house on West Passaic—filled

with dolls, a back room chock-full of dolls from

floor to ceiling in glass-casings—a

collector’s madness—

nevertheless

I saw you at the mahogany table in the dining room

with its turn-of-the-century wall-paper

and the heavy curtains hung by

Mrs. Williams, a Puerto Rican immigrant with circumspect eyes       

in fresh emerging Anglo America.

I saw your brother Ed in a starched Sunday suit

sitting on the living room settee

and you climbing up the narrow staircase

hurt in pride because Charlotte, the subject of your desire,

said yes to him.

II

The last house on the corner of Ridge Rd. teal blue;

across the street what was once a hardware store

where you bought light bulbs for Floss;

and the unadorned church where you married her,

a reminder of abiding love, the asphodel.

I look up at the attic window;

and see you writing at your night desk odes to rivers, the burls of trees,

other flowers and your sick desperate patients of Rutherford

too poor for the contagious hospital.

Say it in things not ideas.

And you danced half-naked in front of the mirror

the dance russe.

III

Ezra, that brilliant ass, away in Pagany.

But you loved A-mur-ka, that green half-savage country.

Doctor Williams in that crisp 1950s black-and-white

photograph in front of the teal blue veranda door,

snowball in hand on a winter’s New Jersey day.

Great-uncle Carlos. I too stood in front of my veranda,

a tomboy daughter of immigrant parents on a frozen heap of snow

in the true-blue north of the border.

IV

Looking for Mr. Marshall who kept a chicken coop  

in his backyard on Washington Ave., the black neighbourhood—

the house with the closed-in pale yellow veranda

to tell him he had left the red wheelbarrow

outside in the yard where it filled

with rainwater.

V

At Hillside Cemetery in Lyndhurst your words are hymns

to the burls, the asphodels, the young girls that still blush,

at the simple stone on the ground overrun by grass, Flossie beside you.

I leave you a greeny leaf of any tree, a common stone, as tokens of my affection.

The towers of New York City in far distance are visible in pre-sunset, your

weekend ride across the river to shape words in the American grain;

desert music, al que quiere, to he who wants it!

VI

Waiting all night at the Colonial Diner for a cab to take me to

Newark for my flight, you resting at Hillside across the street, for 52 years now.

Night hawks pull in for burger and fries. Ridge Rd. ain’t far. I can hear you hum.

I imagine you and Floss ate here, soup, coffee, a slice of pie.

Yesterday a man from Idaho had called you a chicken poet because of the red wheelbarrow,

preferring the opaque quartet lines of one bête noire.

I think of the old strangled house on West Passaic of the two thousand dolls—

a turn of thought—each doll, the two thousand babies you delivered,

like the two thousand poems—

like, just to say,

the plums in the fridge

were so sweet and so cold.