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Brownsville Streets.

 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
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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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Part One: A Selection of Philadelphia Poets
Author:Exler, Samuel
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Article Type:Poem
Date:Jul 1, 2008
Previous Article:At Franklin's Grave.
Next Article:The Cap and the Nose Ring.

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