JOEL LEWIS


A New Jersey based poet, Joel Lewis is the author of two collections of poetry,
House Rent Boogie and Vertical's Currency and edited the Reality Prime, the selected
poems of the 1930s radical poet Waler Lowenfels, Bluestones and Salt Hay, an
anthology of contemporary New Jersey Poets (Rutgers U Press) and a collection of
talks by Ted Berrigan, "On The Level Everyday" (Talisman House).






Nort(h) Bergen

"Safe Kids" Week?
Boys in flood pants. Seaplane
over Berry's Creek.
Saluggi round-robins. At
the heart of this world:
dreaming confidants.
"Speed jerks. Break
your neck. The undertaker
calls. He wants
you": seen daily
as mystery graffiti. Who's
that doofus up
at Haase's Point? Impacted
Sweet-Tarts. "I'm
Bronco & he's
Flavio!" The event that is
an 8-track cartridge.
Percussive resonance
of a pizza slice. Desert boots.
Crab soccer. Hippie capitalists.
Some even liked
Grand Funk Railroad.
The whole township
was a bulletin. Every
band could play
"Smoke On The Water."
Sauntering towards
the Crazy Crystals.
Boone's Farm
vs. Annie Greensprings:
the apple wine wars.
The haunting profile
of Mr. Snitch. Lorrie Lutz's
name still on the bluestones
of Bull's Ferry Road twelve years
past her graduation.
Look what happened
on Kamena Street! Read
Berrigan, Tom Clark, Lewis Warsh
at 14, thought : DRUGS!
Era of fashionable
panhandling. Three bands:
Juicy Lucy, Blodwyn Pig,
Toe Fat. He was called
"Jake the Gummer"
for undisclosed reasons.
To our amazement, Rufus loved
Little Jimmy Dickens.
GINO'S was not
a Latino Gerontological Center
-- it was the home
of the "Gino Giant". The nuances
of flag football. Walking along
Palisades Plaza searching for the latest
Rolling Stone. John Mayall
forms another band. My primal
environment was where the buses
turned around. They beat him up
because he preferred
Rick Wakeman over
Keith Emerson. Live version
of Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida with
even longer drum solo.
Artie Raynes went to
Manhattan courts to challenge
black kids in games
of one-on-one. Winter light
on a White Castle sack. No one
but me remembers
bottlecap baseball. He got
positive reinforcement about
how stupid he was. Leonard
spent the day bashing Life savers
with a sledge hammer. Primitive
marijuana chemistry. Girls
weeping to Joni Mitchell's Blue.
He suffered from a mild case
of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
An informal Aqualung study group.
Black arm bands
on Moratorium Day
but not scared Freshman me.
Dreaming of being a free-form,
underground dj. Moon curdled
above Braddock Park.
Honeker's Dairy on 74th Street.
I resembled Leslie West
back then. I walked
from Nungesser's
to Kamena Street
for the same
reason. Sunset filling
a gas station JFK tumbler.
Young Mayor Mocco singing
"Eve of Destruction"
backed by Tony Cirelli's band.
Canvassing for McGovern voters
at liberal houses filled
with Moses statues. Elephantine
bell bottom pants were
called "elephant bells"
by the wearer. I thought
things I thought only
"I" thought about. I was at
my lowest ebb on
Kissel Terrace. John Krugnola's
collection of Hitler LPs--weird kid.
David Lecin was a fink
for the girls' vice principal.
Frank Steinheimer, future
mortician & friend of John Krugnola,
always in dark suit. Adult Henry Polio
admitted to me that his young self really
did take a shit in a girl's pocketbook.
Heavy teen-age thoughts among small
patches of light. Every afternoon (1972)
I came home & played
"we’re Only In It For The Money"
by the Mothers of Invention. Boys on
local stoops bragging about
Mafia uncles. Sniggering, Franco
called Robyn B.
"The Low-Priced Spread"
& I had no idea
what he meant. Off
to Holthausen's to buy
the Rolling Stone's
"Get Your Ya-Yas Out"
with money I had
panhandled for.
The diner was full of Bronco's
father's scary Croat friends.
A "good job" working
for APA Trucking.
A sack of murderburgers.
Seaplane over Wolf's Creek.
Alvin Lee's one
guitar solo. Saturday
towards Guttenberg.
Too fat
for bodyshirts. Next
step after Grand Funk Railroad:
Bloodrock! Weird blue lights
inside Boucher's Tavern. Teen
drummer's cult worship
of Buddy Rich. Wished for
a lava lamp, a color organ.
Reefer at Incognito park.
Fleeing from pep rallies.
A Yoo-Hoo at Mezzy's.
Lois Goodman's wardrobe
of earth-tone shifts.
Goodyear blimp
over the backyard. Sue Shore
and her folk guitar.
Speculative days at Nungessers.
Narda Luche
rumored to
"do it" in the parking lot
at APA Trucking. Vowels take
a beating along the Boulevard.
Air pole socks as worn by
Paulette "Pep" Schneiderman
I was not considered
"a smart Jew". My silent crush
for Kathy Pakluda.
A word always
shrieked in my ear:
"DOUCHEBAGG!!"
The Nesich Brother's idea
of "fun": taunting
the "retard" Lucien, dishwasher
at Uwe's Luncheonette. Manhattan
Skyline every night through the trees
of Braddock Park.
I raised my hand
when Mrs. Whitehouse
asked: "Who thinks
they're a future
Hemingway?"
-- a rare display
of high self-esteem.
We tolerated many
village idiots. Loved
all of John Gunther,
especially Inside USSR.
Engrossed in the LP
cut-out bins. The remote
terror called:
woman. Billy Picca's
daily subordinate sandwich
of Tempte-Whip
on Thomas’ date-nut bread. The "h"
in North Bergen is silenced by locals
-- Nort Bergen. Long reach
of Dan Kelly's Hill Smoking Kents,
trying to act tough/cool. Our
principal, Joe Coviello, was one
of Fodham's "Seven Blocks
of Granite” & wept over the P.A.
when friend & teammate Vince Lombardi
died. They called Seid's Luncheonette
"the chink's" & stole candy from the racks
on the way to class. Always
a lonely kid "there". Boys
in nicotine jackets. Girls on
porches singing Carly Simon.
Bingo lets out. "Susie Q" train whistle
every night at 10:33. Mike's dad
looked forward to Friday's
free clams at Swanee's. Punks
outrunning railroad dicks. No,
I didn't go to "my" prom. Passing
a smiling Bob Sahagian as he
delivered the Daily News. Which
girls "put-out"?-- my vicarious
non-sex life. The sky
bleeds above Carlstadt: pollution
not a miracle. Nungesser's:
a seedy collapsed junction.
Local hero: Boxer Chuck Wepner,
the "Bayonne Bleeder", pre-Ali.
We thought counterculture
a permanent revolution. I dreaded
high school cafeterias. Shell-shocked
"Fatsy-Patsy" Petrillo ranting
at buses -- HEY PINKY!!!”
A Hershey’s Sky-Hi bar
at Mezzy's. Solace & demerits
at the local library. I thought
men & women smiled
differently. Buy 'em by the sack.


Note:
North Bergen is an 8 square mile township directly opposite mid-town
Manhattan and mostly built along the western slope of the Hudson Palisades.
The poem is a sort of a language slide show of my teenaged life in the waning
days of the 60's (1967-1973) -- as anyone who grew up in that time will tell
you, 60s culture lingered well into the late 70s. The poem is dedicated to
Dennis Barone, author of a Jersyfied poem called "The House of Land",
which served as a jumping off point for this text.




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