Posts Tagged ‘Williams Center for the Arts’

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Oct 22

October 24, 2019

Frank Rubino
Big Shoots

Timmy’s baby-mother overheard me in my drinking 
and bullshitting around the campfire, 
and got in my face in her leopard-spotted jacket 
to attack my politics. She was so exercised,
I had to ask her to withdraw some paces and get rational,
and finally she calmed down, 
and we sat talking in the fishing chairs. 
It had been my first time shooting a handgun
that day, and Timmy had called me Big Shoots.
She revealed that she and Timmy were separated 
though they had flown here together on his father’s dime
and raised their boy together in his house 
near the base where he was stationed, 
and he was taking care of her other kids too, 
from her previous relationships. 
This had been the arrangement for a couple of years. 

I had been thinking all that time 
they were a nuclear family, 
and I looked through the campfire at Tim 
where he sat in hearing range 
the whole time she’d harangued me: 
he’d not moved, 
and looked inward in a wry, long-suffering way, 
just as he sat now and endured her 
divulging all his business, 
that he slept alone on the sofa since Afghanistan,
and was drunk and so forth. 
He didn’t say anything to stop her: 
he had told me earlier 
about his low point, and she was not it.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Oct 15

October 17, 2019

Mark Fogarty 
BLUE PLATE

Brian Burrows was a shrimp. 
I mean, we were ten, eleven, twelve years old 
In 1965 but even on a team of guys 
Not yet ready for puberty, he was small, 
Tiny as a mascot or an honorary batboy. 
We had to sell Critchley’s Candies for the Little League, 
Good stuff, sheets of green-colored mint 
Surrounded by thin skins of chocolate, but no one 
Was buying, even though we were canvassing 
House-to-house in our Flash Cleaners uniforms, 
Which you could get washed for a discount at Flash Cleaners. 

When we met back at the corner, no one had made a sale. 
“They’re all cheapies,” Brian declared. 

So, my father drove us across the river 
To Rutt’s Hut, where we waylaid the Saturday workers 
Coming out after a couple of dogs and a beer. 
The parking lot at Rutt’s was huge, 
A wraparound on three sides built 
On an abutment over Route 21, 
A kind of luxurious balcony over the Passaic River. 

Business improved. 

I guess real estate was cheaper in 1928 
When Rutt’s opened, allowing a parking lot 
As generous in scale as the ones at Sea World or Disneyland. 
It hasn’t changed any, either. Neither 
Has the roadhouse, a ram shack 
With no windows, odd for a restaurant, 
Unless it had originally been a whorehouse 
Or a speakeasy, which it could have been in those Prohibition days. 

Inside, Rutt’s sprawls through several environments. 
There’s a bar with a bunch of tables, in case you need to be close to the booze. 
Then a dining room behind a porous wall and, separately, 
A to-go operation where they shout back your order 
In some strange jack-tommy argot and there are more tables, 
Tables to stand at this time. Linoleum floors 
And fakewood walls complete the décor. It’s cash only. 

There’s a logic to Rutt’s that predates credit cards and 911. 
A sign by a bell says if bell sounds, call the fire department. 
Since there are no windows, it still smells like 1965, 
A static waft made up of old farts 
And the fumes from ancient shots and beers. 

Rutt’s lives on for its fried hot dogs, 
Called rippers because they rip in the hot grease. 
If you want to go long you can ask for wellers, 
Which are even better acquainted with the grease. 
Milk for the coffee comes in an oversized shotglass 
And is rarely filled more than halfway, waste not. 

The place won best hot dog in America three years running. 

I had a blind date at Rutt’s once. This was back 
When you had to answer personals by mail. 
I’m a writer; I did pretty well at this. 
When I called, the woman she said she was from Clifton. 
The only place I know in Clifton is Rutt’s, I said. 
I love that place, she said. Let’s meet there. 
And we did. And though I didn’t make the sale, 
She told me she had gotten two hundred letters, 
So I guess getting to meet her was like 
Being nominated for an Oscar, an honor 
Even if you don’t win. 

Rutt’s is the kind of place where people always tell the truth. 
The glimpse of the river from the parking lot balcony, 
The sweetness of the mint, is why I keep coming back. 

If you don’t get the rippers or the wellers, 
You can get one of Rutt’s Blue Plates. 
Corned beef and cabbage, boiled potato. 
Brisket and red cabbage, potato pancake. 
Soul food from 1965, a blue-plate year  
When no one had yet conceived of 
Tiny portions of food designed into geometric shapes. 

My Mom, God bless her, taught me not to play with my food. 

Flash Cleaners sucked the three years Brian and I played, 
But the hard Passaic winds that buffeted the field got us ready to be men. 

Critchley’s Candies is still in existence. Started in 1957, it is located at 812 Kinderkamack Road, River Edge, NJ. A box of chocolate mints is $12.98. Flash Cleaners is still at 43 Meadow Road, Rutherford, NJ. Jack Tommy: short order argot for grilled cheese and tomato. Jim DeLillo sent me some Critchley’s Mints after we had lunch at Rutt’s; this poem is dedicated to him.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Oct 8

October 10, 2019

Della Rowland

Odd Socks


Your shirts fit you loosely,
your pants but by your belt.
You pull off your boots 
and even your socks
at every chance you get.
Your mouth never smells
of liquor you’ve drunk
or smoke from your cigarettes.
Nor your body of soap
or of yesterday’s clothes,
nor your hair of shampoo.

You elude everything.
Not even your musk clings to you.
When you leave, you take
all your evidence,
like so many socks you’ve stepped out of,
shaped to your foot
but empty.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Oct 1

October 3, 2019

Frank Rubino

Bowhunters

A family of deer appeared on the neighbor’s property. 
My nephews strung their bows. 
One had a crossbow; the other’s looked like a strut off a bridge, 
elaborate, articulated, modern with pulleys. 
They lined up all their arrows with different heads 
and colored fletching, yellow-green and orange,
on the hood of their truck,
and set their bow stands steady on the grass, 
and marshaled abilities learned in the army 
to make the best tactical formation.

They waited on the four deer, two does grown
and two younger, and talked quietly, 
earnestly about the deer, drinking, 
deciding which would be the best one to take. 
They consulted— again— their Google research page
on the proper place to put an arrow in a deer: 
behind the shoulder where the liver, the heart, 
and the lungs all clustered, and pulsed its blood.
If a deer should jump the fence, it would be in the legal target zone 
my nephews had established on my brother’s property.

The boys’ wives came out from my brother’s house 
and talked with them sotto voce, with their eyes
avidly on the deer, and smiled at the prospect of an easy kill. 
The deer ignored them and walked around cropping grass 
on their side, drifting closer, twenty, fifteen, ten yards away.
The wives went back in the house to let it happen. 

My brother came out then and walked gravely
to the truck, and stood among the arrayed arrows.
“Your mother says you can’t kill a deer here today. 
She says, ‘There are kids and people coming over, 
and you can’t shoot and clean an animal.’”
My nephews protested to my brother, their father,
who had taught them to shoot, after all,
when they were children, 
and he looked down on the grass and said, “Look,
I’m telling you, if you shoot a deer you’ll have Hell to pay. 
You’ll upset your mother. You want to make your mother angry, 
go shoot the deer.” They both looked chastened. 
“I sure don’t want to make Mom mad,” said the younger. 
So they stood down, and left off stalking the deer— 
who moved anyway to the far side
of the neighbor’s clearing, and into the woods, and were lost—
and shot their arrows at a foam target cube instead. 
When he released it, and his arrow thwacked, the elder brother said, 
“To the fletch, it sinks.”

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Sept 24

September 25, 2019

Zorida Mohammed

Crossing the German Border


Crossing the German border back into Denmark,
a very modest, rustic monument caught our eye.
Four narrow boards, the color of barn siding, about 4 or 5 feet tall,
each bearing the name of a concentration camp,
stood next to each other on a platform.

Dachau was the easiest to remember.
The other 3 names were long and complicated
and I did not write them down, I’m sorry to say.

The Danes were observing the anniversary 
and had placed wreaths and flowers at the base of the boards.
I stood for a picture on the platform
that I later realized had been one of the train stations 
where Jewish citizens were collected.
My sister-in-law’s voice fell low 
when she mentioned that the Danes were also complicit.

I wanted the camera to capture
an emaciated body
leaning a bit to one side from hunger.
I held my own hands to remain steady.

Who was I to stand in the presence of such 
unfathomable innocence and guilt?
My tears could not find their way out.

As I was stepping down from the platform,
a shiny clean train
that knew nothing about Dachau
or of concentration camps
went almost silently by.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Sept 17

September 18, 2019

John Barrale

Moon Island


Under a furnace sun, where the rocks are too hot to touch,
and the crone-like shrubs hide their bitter leaves
behind walls of thorn, water was the moon’s gift.
By luck, there were caves, mysterious places,
temple-like and roofed in pale stone. What rain fell
seeped down and gathered there in shimmering pools
the First Ones called moon eyes. At winter’s end,
when the caves were full, water poured
from wound-like springs onto hillside terraces.
There, Fertility, the moon’s promiscuous wife,
gave her lovers grapes and figs. Wildflowers,
their perfume hers, tumbled down the hills.
Mornings drifted in from the sea like a song.
Under summer’s green bowers, when sons came home
from the sea, fathers roasted goats over open-pit fires
and poured red wine into inscribed clay cups,
the wine from jugs kept cool in deep, bell-like wells.
And I, who never came home, would go there if I could.

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RWB Workshop Poem of the Week—Sept 10

September 16, 2019

Bobbie O’Connor

VACATIONS ON MY GRANDPARENT’S FARM


I’d take my little brother for a bumpy ride
in Grandma’s antique doll carriage
past all the orange tiger lilies
that lined the long dirt lane
open on both sides.

We’d stop at the field
full of black raspberries
and eat our fill.

Then, we’d visit Pearl and Ammon,
the old couple who lived 
at the end of the lane.

I got a kick out of how the chickens
were free to roam in and out
of their kitchen all day,
and how, as Pearl’s cotton dresses
would get worn out,
they’d become aprons
and, later, dust rags.

At night, Mommy would carry a kerosene lamp
to walk us up to bed
and tuck us in.
With no electricity,
everybody would go to bed early.

Whenever I woke up early enough,
I liked to watch Grandma brush her hair
before putting it back into a bun.
I was fascinated at the way it was so long,
it came to her knees,
and how the bottom foot of it
was red instead of gray.

As a teenager, I was expected to be helpful.
As a girl, that meant helping with meals
and all those dishes to be washed
after three big, hot meals every day.

It was much more fun to go work 
in the fields with Daddy and my uncles.
I’d get stuck with kitchen work
soon enough, when my brother 
was old enough to be a help
instead of a hinderance.

I loved standing, balanced,
on the flat-bed wagon,
pulled by the hay baler,
which was pulled by the tractor.

Using a big hook, I’d grab each hay bale
as it came up the chute from the baker
and stack it behind me.
I’ll never forget how horribly itchy 
hay dust is on sweaty skin.

There was no bathroom on the farm, 
just the outhouse and the pump 
for filling buckets of water for washing
when a shower
would’ve been so much easier.

Grandpa’s brother, Uncle Clarence,
had the farm next door.
After Aunt Maggie died,
he bought an old school bus,
had it towed to his farm,
moved into it 
and rented out the house.

A friend of the family, Fred,
lived nearby.
Sometimes we’d visit him.
There was a little brook to cross,
but the bridge was long gone,
so everybody just drove through the water
and up to his house.

After heavy rains,
he just didn’t leave
or get any company.

The front steps were gone also.
Instead of replacing them,
he just dumped shake in a pile
and built a little hill
slanting up to the porch.

Once, when Grandma was feeding the pigs, 
one charged at her
as if he was going to run between her legs,
but her longish dress got in the way, 
and she was thrown onto his back,
so she had a little ride,
but she was riding backwards.

While at the farm, the big treat 
was when one of my uncles 
would drive into the town in the evening
and come back with ice cream.

We’d all sit around the big kitchen table
and enjoy eating it in the glow
of a kerosene lamp.

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