I ran in those streets, skated, played ring-a-leevio; they were my playground, my New World of broken-boarded lots, used tire dump, blacksmith shop; and I was ten years old, in love with Elsie Kalb, whose chestnut-colored curls cuddled the nape of her neck. Then we moved away. And the years sent me to war, to streets drowned under the wreckage of houses, streets like a black gash, charred by jellied gasoline, or boiling with a white dust that dimmed the noonday sun. I longed for the old neighborhood, the tenement where I'd lived, coal bins in a cellar haunted by pregnant cats-- but when I drove back fire-blackened windows, boarded up, stared back at my startled gaze, while twenty overflowing garbage cans, like an army squad called to attention, formed a precise line on the sidewalk... Years later, another visit, but it was bare ground, a world gone blank, flat, no cellars, nothing but the street sign, synagogue, school. I used to think of Elsie and how, in the clothes closet, she touched her lips to mine, once upon a time.
SAMUEL EXLER (1923-2008) served in the Army during World War II and received a European Theater of Operations ribbon with three battle stars, a Bronze Star, and a distinguished unit badge. His poems have been published in many journals, including APR, Plainsong, and Poetry East. He died on April 19, 2008, in Chestnut Hill.
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|Title Annotation:||Part One: A Selection of Philadelphia Poets|
|Publication:||The American Poetry Review|
|Date:||Jul 1, 2008|
|Previous Article:||At Franklin's Grave.|
|Next Article:||The Cap and the Nose Ring.|