Melancholy Hyperbole

Poetry about longing.

Before

I’m  9 and behind the wheel of our green and white ’55 Olds.
I start to check the mirrors,
but my father tells me not to worry what’s coming from behind–
though I know he always does.
The Belt curves around to the right near the Bay Parkway exit
and I see houses and parks and empty lots in the distance
and people walking on Shore Road, dressed for the weather.
What’s missing is the Verrazano up ahead,
that behemoth that looms over everything on land and on the sea
and whose towers you can hardly ever see in the morning fog.
It’s 1958, building it had not yet begun.
Careful, Aloysius, he says to me, though he knows I’m scared
and more apt to wander from my lane unwittingly
than be foolhardy or reckless:
I am my father’s son.
 
This is a game I call Before
and as the bridge appears in the distance now–
as it always does—maybe I can see it new,
an approximation of the wonder that I’ve lost,
that the years of easy living have worn away.
Imagine seeing it now as if for the first and being stunned by its grace,
its size, its utterness, the way it swallows up
the boats, the streets, the houses,
fathers showing how to sail a boat, to skim a stone;
kids on bikes, their fathers holding on and huffing from behind;
fathers teaching their young how to drive
and secretly pressing an imaginary brake
to slow the car and the press of time;
even a father’s memory of all that came before,
and he never got a chance to tell.

 

Alan WalowitzAlan Walowitz has been published various places on the web and off.  He’s a Contributing Editor at Verse-Virtual, an Online Community Journal of Poetry, and is employed as a teacher at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY and St. John’s University in his native Queens.  Alan’s chapbook, Exactly Like Love, will be published by Osedax Press in June.

 
 

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Categories: Poetry

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6 replies

  1. Thank you! I enjoyed reading this poem this morning. It’s a wonderful poem. It rally is. I look forward to obtaining a copy of your book. And you signing it.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. ‘And he ever got a chance to tell’: oh the stories that stay with the dead……
    Again, Alan: a moment of truth!

  3. My father had the same car…the ’55 Olds. Your memory jogged mine to think about so many images i.e., Dad stepping on his brake as he sat next to me …a “big-shot” with my Junior license. Or the times we paid 10 cents to cross the Marine Park Bridge in his “Flashy Blue and White ’55 Oldsmobile.
    As Bob Hope has said, “Thanks for the Memories.

  4. Love the movement–Whitmanesque–and the last line.
    So evocative of my childhood–esp. the massive magnificence of the Verrazano–seeing it for the 1st time. Uncanny.

    It has a dreamy quality, unlike your usual style, but also the more familiar tension, anxiety, hauntings of the tense relationship.
    Anchored by the “I am…son” and the last line’s bittersweetness.

    Thanks,
    JZW

  5. It’s been about a dozen years now since I lived almost under the Verazano in Bay Ridge..saw it every morning out my window with my coffee, saw it in the distance, like you did, on the Belt, gradually appearing after passing Coney Island. Watched it literally shake while marathoners crossed it..never thought about what it might have been like before it was there, I just accepted it, like the water and the sky. Thumbs up, Al.

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