“While the neighborhood overall retains integrity of location and design, it generally lacks integrity of setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association.–Maryland Historical Trust Review
In my mind’s eye I see it—the stub of a macadam road
Dead-ending into Blue Diamond Coal, its trucks
Lined up each morning for the long hauls.
To the left, the junkyard, heaps of metal and rubber, hard by
An Italianate house, rust-brown, coated with years
Of dust and cinder ash, facing the junkyard cranes instead
Of a lawn. A porch swing, always vacant even on summer
Evenings. Only the metal cranes noticed.
The folks who lived in the house, white haired, plainly dressed
Bespectacled, came and went together, but mostly stayed home.
My father’s tavern sat amongst these places, the last
In a row of houses. In its former life, the bar
Housed a bakery, we heard—and the baker’s family
Lived upstairs in the cramped rooms, their kitchen
The bakery itself. I used to pretend I could smell
Bread baking, the sweet fragrance of airy
White loaves turning golden in the long-gone ovens.
I went along with my father there before dawn,
the half-light bathing the block in sepia.
I sat at a small table in the back bar reading comics—
my father rolled kegs of beer up from the dank cellar.
Up on the ragged sidewalk I stood peering down
As he slid the keg into a handtruck, up a plywood
Ramp, and into the tavern.
Light crept in through the glass bricks in the storefront.
I leaned around the corner of the darkwood bar,
Watched him roll the keg from handcart to its station,
Waited for the hiss when he tapped the silver barrel.
I inhaled the faint yeasty smell, which oddly, offended—
And pleased me. Sounds of traffic began to flow in
From the bar’s back door, still propped open. I was
Sent to pick up the paper from the doorstep, laid it
On my father’s work table near the curved jukebox.
It wouldn’t be switched on till lunchtime. Hank
Williams’ and Jerry Lee’s wails issued from it.
But by then I would be back home— quiet streets,
Small green lawns, lolling on an old quilt spread in shade.
Reprinted from A New Ulster, Issue 39, December 2015