Sunday, November 26, 2006

Gone but still here

Public baths,
11th Street, East Village, Manhattan
built 1904
now a single-family home

I sip
rum and cokes
and blur
the here and now
at an East Village bar
steps from the tenement
where a midwife delivered my father
99 years ago

I rise
on stuttering feet
and walk
around the corner
past the old public baths
on 11th Street
between Avenues A and B
an abode now for well-heeled tenants
but through a rip in time
I see the place where my father
watched his father
get clean
after days of manual labor

I pass
the public school
where my father's mind was nurtured
its classrooms now luxury apartments
with big closets

I hear
idle chatter

about
stock portfolios
and
reality TV
and
real estate prices
but it can't drown out
echoes

of ancient immigrant sounds
whose meanings can be inferred
but not quite understood

I walk
these streets
arm-in-arm
with ghosts

My dad's childhood home
born there in 1907
Sixth Street
between First Avenue and Avenue A
East Village
Manhattan

2 comments:

Michael said...

I like the feeling and flow of this. I've always been fascinated by the lives that existed in the spaces we inhabit. I've never been able to draw a direct connection like you. Nevertheless, it's a great illustration of impermanence.
Best,
M

Michael said...

Hi Michael,

Thanks for your comment!

Yes, I'm very lucky in that I can draw a direct connection not only to a specific apartment but to an entire neighborhood.

This connection is formed from vintage photographs I've seen and the reminiscences of my dad and his younger sister.

I'm especially grateful that I obtained a wealth of information from my aunt before she died recently at age 95.

Now, the onus of remembrance is on me.