Humble Cottage

For A & N

Humble Cottage

You took me by surprise
Though you shouldn’t have
Clad in warm cedar shakes
Your modern white belly soothed me
Antique America met anew

Riding high set above
Long Island Sound
North Fork rocky beaches
Soft saltwater cool
Full of good taste and grace

Fresh cut grass and lush trees
Supersweet Corn and Rosé
You were in my dreams
Books upon books and smiles
We laughed and were merry

Humble Cottage you
Be less humble
You home full of love
Happy ghost
Till then


An Unnatural Death


An Unnatural Death

America and all of Brooklyn is a flood in tears over the body of the small boy Leiby Kletzky. Straight from a gory novel, he was abducted and butchered by a man Aron Levi. The missing persons report fliers that filled my neighborhood and all of New York City were taped nailed and posted everywhere. They now stand as haunting ghosts in an infinitely incomprehensible nightmarish tragedy gone terribly real. Alien to the experience of the average person of decency and compassion this is no act of a human being, a monster they say. They ask, "Why?", but there are no real answers to be found but the real horror of it all which is that the man is human and he is one of us. This sends chills to the bone as we are confronted with ourselves, that piece of human nature we often keep beneath the surface buried below in the murky depths. I am sadly reminded in these cases that our race is capable of absolute love, beauty, high art and charity and we are also capable of worse as if to balance a scale we can sink to the darkest levels and still be all too human. I cry for the boy Leiby Kletzky and his family. I cry for the man Aron Levi and I cry for all of humanity.


Stealing Home Base in Hanoi: Baseball Joey

Like some strange old kid with a grey beard he rode the train on Sundays to Atlantic Avenue but unlike any kid he went to pick up his medications. His mind was never quite right since Vietnam. Joey lived in the projects off Ave. W for the past thirty-five years. His hearing was partially blown during a V.C. grenade attack while out on patrol. As Joey spoke his voice had a tendency to rise to alarming levels but he was harmless. He had a real bad form of P.T.S.D., which gave him a jittery nervous twitch. He rubbed his head a lot and looked at the floor after saying something. He was completely calm and stable most of the time. Through his face you knew that he along with a generation of fellas got left behind in those jungles holding onto a whole world of shit. His smile was warm but it never really could hide the scars of war.
He loved talking baseball. Since he had come back home to Brooklyn so many years ago it was the last thing for him that made any sense in America anymore. He held on so tightly to that piece of his youth. It gave him something to focus on and it was its own sort of therapy. He could watch game after game season after season. He organized stats and kept records tracking teams and player careers. He was a walking talking functionally dysfunctional library of baseball. Through the years of doing this he had regained some piece of his humanity. It’s how he was able to connect with people. It eased his mind and kept the nightmares away. It brought a smile to his face and when he got to talk about a game or a player there was no stopping him. His excitement couldn’t be contained and some people got nervous over his explosive joys. But it was only Joey it was only baseball. It was his salvation, the saving grace for an old man who had found heaven and hell on Earth.


Brooklyn Summer

It all took place in his backyard, everything. When the sun came back breaking the long cold silence of winter effectually ending our suffering it was finally time for good times and grand times. This certainly included the barbecue. Aaron’s place had unofficially become the hang spot, a base for multiple operations and happenings for the Fort Green patriots and for those willing to make a trek up the hill. Most of the regulars seem to live a step or two away and walk here. Foot power is New York’s real steam, its real driving engine.
We’ve done everything from survive a rapture to watch movies and basketball projected onto a queen sized sheet stretched like hide on a fence. We’ve grilled all sorts of edible goodness and tipped back everything drinkable. The sun shines down brightly from above in the early hours of summer and the yard, part urban garden, shed, patio, is a lovely site to see. It is inviting without any pretension. The signature celebrated earthiness of the space is set off by the massive walls of the Presbyterian Church next door. The old brick walls and stained glass windows cast long dark shadows in the early afternoon. With Aaron’s building working in tandem with the holy, it sets an interesting scene, reminiscent of Shawshank Redemption. We could however not be further from prison while we bask in the warm glows of grilled corn and freedom.
Beer bottles and ash trays are their own flowers in this tiny microcosm in Brooklyn. There again are the actual flowers and tall grasses. The new additions to this Eden are the bamboo shoots that we all watch grow and progress on their journey towards the sun. We watch them with the same attention and eagerness we give to the wings and burgers sizzling nearby. This has become an escape, our dreamland where we can relax and re-absorb life. I thank the Blacks for this haven. This is our new but familiar corner of the world.


Draw Me Airplanes

A kind old man from Guyana once told me this story in 2007. I paraphrased it from our conversation that afternoon.

I was a teacher back home for many years before I came here. I taught ages 8 to 14. One day a week, we would teach our students art. For one hour on Friday afternoon, 2-3 o’clock. You have to understand my conception of art was very different then, if for instance, I had a picture of an airplane I’d have the children draw it. The colors, lines and shapes. That was art.

So one day as I walked around they were working and drawing away. I remember seeing these bright colors and models of what this plane looked like. We were into the lesson by about 5 or 10 minutes when I went to the back row and I had this young man about 10 sitting quietly. His art book was closed, a pad of about 20 pages or so. I asked him, “Are you finished already?” he quietly replied, “Oh, yes Sir.” I asked him if I could see it. He opened his book. I looked at it, it was a blank page. I asked him, “Where is the airplane?” He silently pointed to the center of the page. I crouched down to look at what he was showing me and it was a small little v shaped mark. I asked him, “What is this?” He said, “The airplane took off.”

I stood there in amazement. It surprised me so much, this student was generally below average in our other subjects, but something really happened there that made me think, what a brilliant idea, the way in which he perceived the idea of the airplane. Later I took it to the Headmaster and he and I both agreed it was correct. It was the assignment, draw the airplane. Now, after working here for about 2 years and seeing art so new to me I remember that child’s drawing from time to time and I am reminded that art is not the picture of the airplane on the paper. It is the perception and internalization of the idea of the airplane in the mind of the artist and viewer. That is where the art is, in each of us.