Speechless the Magazine

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A magazine of poetry and related arts straight from L.A.

 

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Two Poems

John Allman

from Loew’s Triboro (New Directions)



Children Playing at Wading Pool, John Murray Playground, Queens, July 3, 1942.

Loew's Triboro

It was easy as lying to our mothers. As living in Queens
            across from Manhattan, walking over
the bridge connecting three boroughs, looking
down on the nut house on Ward’s island, one of us
            dribbling a basketball. Eggs in our

pockets, we sneaked into the Loew’s theater through
         the back door. The old vaudeville stage
behind the movie screen moving with the shadow of
Bogart and his lisp. One of us just out of jail for sticking
         up a drugstore. His father leaving him

there two extra days to teach him a lesson. We climbed
         up the ladder along the side of the
screen, behind a fake Renaissance curtain, looked out at
the audience in the dark, the glowing cigarettes, Hank,
         whose father ran a dry-goods store

on Steinway Street, slipping his hand under a girl’s skirt.
         Checking the material. A script
flickering at our loins. The newsreel releasing survivors
into sunlight, arms thin as the stripes on their pajamas.
         Eleanor’s father on the corner of Broadway

waving pamphlets for the Labor Party. Eleanor not yet
         in her marine boyfriend’s room getting
shot to death. We reached the little balcony, the Wurlitzer
organ draped with an old carpet, the bad smell of Father
         Flaherty’s breath. We kept going.

At the top of the screen, from behind a decorative
         molding, we saw our neighbors sucking
Black Cows, rolling darkness in their mouths. And
we started. The eggs cool from Sonny’s aunt’s
         refrigerator flew across

the night sky blinking down from light-bulb space. They
         landed like doves breaking apart on Hank’s
chest, a gooey wound on the girl’s skirt. They slid out of our
hands like ghosts, uncle’s loud jokes descending at his
         sister’s second wedding, groans

splurting in the night, a rifled mischief rotating in the air,
         concussed, spun by history’s grooves,
while Jerry down there with his polio leg in a brace
raised himself on the splattered yolky arms of his seat
         and roared, shaking his fist.

 

Eleanor

She lit a cigarette up there in the balcony, her lipstick
         imprinting the smoke before it even
reached her lungs, her hand itching for a reason, an automatic,
something she could snap a clip into. Boys showing up,
         one by one sitting next to her, slipping

a hand under her sweater, while she rubbed the bulges in their
         pants and puffed smoke into the shaft
of light from the projector, laughing when they sidled out of the
aisle in their sticky underwear. There wasn’t anyone didn’t know
         her name in the halls of the high school.

Or in the front seat of cars where they dreamt of the blow jobs
         they’d never get and waited for her to walk
home from her job in the dry-goods store. Maybe it was her father’s
Labor Party pamphlets, the beating he took on Broadway, next to
         Woolworth’s, or the way she breathed so

heavily through a deviated septum, as if she always had a cold. Or
         blame her sister’s weight. Mother’s long blood-
hound face. Maybe it was the way a woman walked on screen, how
she leaned against a wall, waiting for a light, every guy in a dark suit
         coming up to her with his hand cupping fire. 


More recollections of Loew's Triboro—once a crown jewel of Queens, New York—from John Allman and others who  attended movies there in the 40s and 50s.


John Allman’s previous books of poetry and fiction from New Directions are Curve Away from Stillness: Science Poems (1989), Scenarios for a Mixed Landscape (1986), Clio’s Children (1985), and Descending Fire & Other Stories  (1994).  His poems have appeared in The Yale Review, 5 AM, Crazyhorse, North Dakota Quarterly, Kestrel, Michigan Quarterly Review, and Full Circle.  He has twice been awarded a National Endowment of the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship in Poetry.  His forthcoming collection of poems, also from New Directions, is called Lowcountry.

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Speechless Spring 2007
Copyright © 2007 Published by
Tebot Bach