27 abril 2011

Ode to Flatbush

I'm the only customer in Dunkin' Donuts
at 7 am in the "hood."
My friends don't get why I live here.
They think it's far
or dangerous.
It isn't quite anywhere near gentrified yet.
But there's a certain charm to Flatbush
that can only be seen in the early morning.

As I strolled with my coffee along Church Ave.
and the schoolchildren marched by en route to the bus
I felt a sense of inner peace
that I never remember having had on any sidewalk in Manhattan.
Not even the graveyard across the street
could detract from the calming aura,
for I was certain that the spirits that lived here before
were content with my presence
-no matter how out of context-
in the southern reaches of Prospect Park.

I've begun to feel a nostalgia for the present
but not quite a desire to be in this city.
It's a nostalgia for this state I'm in
and an anticipation or the fear that soon I will change.

Fifty-six years ago my father was born here
and lived in a house on E. 5th St.
It's not too far from my apartment, about ten blocks.
My grandmother went to Erasmus Hall High,
right around the corner.
And without any awareness when I made the decision,
I came here in search of my past.
Remnants of that era still linger in the kippot
that march down Ocean Parkway, Friday at 6.
But for the most part the Flatbush dialect
has devolved to have tinges of Patois and Creole.
The old Jewish bakeries are now Jamaican patty stands.
And my five year old father has been replaced by a 21 year old poet.

It's funny the thoughts you can have in a Dunkin' Donuts at 7 am.
As if the past suddenly rushed upon you
and converged in your morning coffee
("Light, no sugar please")
staring you in the face
(is this young, black cashier the image of my past?)
offering you some company as you make your way home.

I never studied Buddhism and I don't know how to reach nirvana,
but I don't think I'll ever come closer
than these lazy spring days in Flatbush.

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